Alternative Opinions on the 2020 Pandemic – A Balanced View

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[UPDATED, Aug 2020] The arrival of COVID-19 has caused enormous distress and confusion. Yet although the worst may now be over, many people in the ‘truth seeking’ world continue to question the official narrative of the pandemic and its causes, stimulating a draconian wave of public censorship with severe implications for the future of free speech. How can we make sense of all the arguments and why they exist, and what will the consequences of the current situation be? ANDY THOMAS, author of Conspiracies and The Truth Agenda, addresses the controversies in a non-polarised and accessible way to help bring a little clarity.


DISCLAIMER: This article does not exist to specifically confirm or deny the accusations covered, nor does it advise anyone to ignore or defy World Health Organisation advice. The analyses of the featured disputes – and some are controversial – exist to try to overcome the standard media approach of condemnation without full consideration and fairly assess them. The inclusion of links is for illustrative reference; the opinions expressed in the sources linked to are not necessarily those of this author.  Note also the update at the end of the article.



When a new strain of coronavirus was first rumoured in China, it seemed far away and abstract. As the threat edged into Western consciousness, still it seemed marginal. But, in Britain at least, when it was announced that episodes of radio soap The Archers would be curtailed and the exasperating words ‘unprecedented’, ‘furlough’ and ‘be safe’ wormed their way into everyone’s lives, the penny finally dropped that we were in a major crisis and the panic buying began. And then the death figures started to come in.

But for those ever doubtful about authorities and control agendas, the immediate instinct was to question. Deep-seated fears about false information and the long-term risks of the authoritarian measures, economic havoc and social morphing instigated to combat the virus have blossomed into what are now branded ‘crackpot conspiracy theories’ (© all media) to be erased as quickly as link removal and deplatforming will allow. The consequences for the truth-seeking world – and freedom in general – are likely to be huge, as this piece will explore. If you are not bothered with some of the more semantic arguments, it might still be worth skipping to the last section of the article.

Yet there are anomalies within the official narrative of COVID-19. Given long centuries of known deception from authorities, why, argue the doubters, shouldn’t they be allowed to ask crucial questions the mainstream seems to avoid? Questioning virus orthodoxy has become highly sensitive and contentious, generating conflicts even amongst truth-seekers. Definitive answers remain elusive, but this article is an attempt to pin down the central issues around the current Great Matter from the truth-seeker’s perspective and to understand the grave dangers to liberty and freedom of speech that are arising from it – while we are still allowed to. It is not a technical discussion of the way the virus supposedly works (these are freely available in the mainstream) and I have tried to be concise, though it’s not the briefest of pieces, but then many of us aren’t exactly short on time at the moment. Treat it like an e-book; don’t try and read it over a single cup of tea.

While I have tried to be non-judgmental, inevitably my own views colour things in places and there is an Anglocentric slant, but the hope is to neutralise some of the current polarisation, not generate more. The piece can’t – and doesn’t – attempt to cover every argument but sums up as many key aspects as possible in as balanced a way as possible. Clicking on the links for further detailed information and references is recommended; they are a useful resource in themselves.


1:  The Origins

COVID-19 is said to have first arisen in a ‘wet market’ (basically, dubious wild animal meat markets) in Wuhan, China, as a new strain of coronavirus somehow leapt from poorly kept creatures to humans. [We will explore the very contentious claims that there is no virus at all below.] But many people, even in the mainstream, have challenged this view.


ACCUSATION:  The virus was created in a Wuhan-based laboratory and escaped from there

ANALYSIS:  The journal Nature and other peer-review publications have produced papers purporting to prove that the virus originated from animals such as bats and pangolins and was not specifically engineered. However, other informed sources question their reliability – and the animal-or-laboratory arguments may not be mutually exclusive. Having spent weeks dismissing lab-escape theories, even the BBC began discussing the possibility again when the USA launched a new investigation, with Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo overtly stating there is intelligence which supports this view. Trump’s endorsement is enough to make his detractors question the claim’s validity, something that will grow if the said intelligence is not publicly shared, but there are clearly relevant questions to be asked. Because of developments discussed below, mainstream social media platforms no longer host material which questions the World Health Organisation‘s (WHO) word on coronavirus, but this hardline censorship has been made absurd by the USA’s new official position which receives wide coverage in news bulletins. One of the Facebook ‘fact checkers’ who originally debunked the Wuhan lab-escape theories was recently revealed to have once worked at the very Biosafety Level 4 facility at the Wuhan Institute of Virology now under scrutiny – hardly an independent source.

The coincidence that the said facility is situated just 900 feet from the market where the virus is said to have broken out seems too big to be ignored. Coincidences can occur, but this is an extraordinary one, especially given that the facility was set up to specifically research the very strains of coronavirus we are now dealing with. It is officially acknowledged that awareness of the outbreak was at first suppressed by Chinese authorities; did they know even more than they were letting on?

Experiments on animals – including bats – were routine at the facility. If the virus was not specifically engineered as such, it is not impossible that it might have been blended from known animal viruses to create a more powerful strain. Security at the facility was known to be lax, with US intelligences having flagged this up some months before the outbreak. Stories that animals had been smuggled out of the lab to sell at the nearby market were well-known, although bats are not officially said to have been sold there and some academics have even questioned the ability of bats to spread such a virus. Alternatively, an employee of the facility may have become infected and then visited the market. Whichever way it might have happened it is really not unreasonable to consider that lab-infected animals of some kind, or infected humans, might well have found their way onto the streets of Wuhan, thus spreading the virus.


ACCUSATION:  The outbreak was not accidental – but deliberate

ANALYSIS:  It is inevitable that the conspiracy world might consider the release of COVID-19 to be intentional (see below). One of the stranger things about the epidemic in China is that it was remarkably well-contained. Although it spread widely to other parts of the globe, the Chinese casualties were largely restricted to Wuhan, with relatively few cases in other heavily populated parts of the country. The easy first answer to this is that the Chinese have not been honest about their figures and exercised undue influence on the WHO not to question, a widely voiced assertion. Even so, it still seems things didn’t go as badly as expected.

Were the restrained numbers because of the very heavy lockdown brought in once the Chinese authorities did decide to act, after initial cover-ups? Or was the virus targeted so that it would affect only a restricted part of the population? Claims that an immunisation programme of some kind had been initiated in Wuhan shorty before the outbreak have led to theories that parts of the city’s population were protected in advance (although others believe this propagated the virus).

Poor security at the Wuhan facility has been much discussed. Reports of Chinese scientists smuggling vials of viruses both into and out of China in recent years have been denied by mainstream sources, but the stories remain rife online. The Times recently reported that French safety inspectors had been irregularly prevented from entering the facility, which was subsequently described by a Parisienne civil servant as being “a bacteriological atomic timebomb”. Could such a loose setup have allowed a manipulation to have occurred? [The specific facility was co-funded by France while the original institute was partially founded with French, US, Canadian and Chinese input in 2003 according to some sources.]

The virus’s comparatively restricted death rate suggests it probably isn’t the large-scale global depopulation campaign long feared by hardcore conspiracy thinkers. But if a COVID release was deliberate, why? To justify even heavier authoritarianism, or perhaps to enable China to gain a financial advantage over the world economy? After initial falls during its lockdown, China’s economy rapidly recovered to substantially increase international exports and investments while the rest of the world, the US in particular, was still vulnerable. Was this merely taking advantage of an unexpected situation, or part of a plan – taking a risk by releasing a virus that would create panic and some deaths but not prove devastating to the Chinese population in the long-run? This presumes an ice-cold Malthusian attitude on the part of Chinese officials (or whoever might have given such orders), which some find distasteful. Others fear that such minds do exist around the world.


ACCUSATION:  The outbreak originated not in China, but in the USA

ANALYSIS:  Angered by US criticisms of its security and Donald Trump’s labelling of COVID-19 as ‘the Chinese virus’, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested the outbreak may have started in the USA, an assertion repeated by other Chinese ministers since. This in turn has infuriated US patriots, but there are some reports worth consideration.

In August 2019 an outbreak of lung pneumonias in a number of US states were attributed to reactions to a bad batch of ‘vaping’ e-cigarettes; but some observers believe they demonstrated signs of a coronavirus. These cases followed claims that the US military’s bio-lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland had recently been shut down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to concerns about inadequate safety levels. Other similar respiratory problems – very like COVID symptoms – then emerged amongst citizens in Hawaii, none of whom had been to China.  In October 2019, Wuhan hosted the World Military Games, where US athletes took part; some of these, who may already have been infected through connections with Fort Detrick, were reportedly hospitalised with a mystery infection while there – having already visited parts of Wuhan, including the market where the pandemic is said to have begun.

These threads may simply be diversionary tactics from Chinese officials but should perhaps be followed up. If the virus did spread from the USA, would this have been an unfortunate accident or a deliberate attempt to undermine China’s global influence as part of the ongoing trade war, perhaps not banking on the terrible effect the virus would subsequently have on the US itself and other countries? Again, this posits that there are forces that would take such immoral actions with their own people; unfortunately, conspiracy history (Pearl Harbor and 9/11 being prime suspects for this) suggests likely precedents, and such a possibility cannot be entirely ruled out.


ACCUSATION:  The outbreak was anticipated by global pandemic exercises and may have been known about – or planned – in advance

ANALYSIS:  In October 2019 (interestingly around the time of the World Military Games mentioned above), the US-based Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security began its ‘Event 201’ project, a high-level exercise which anticipated a global pandemic and how it could be coped with. Co-organised with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (high-profile proponents of worldwide vaccination programmes, eyed with suspicion in conspiracy circles – see Part 3) it imagined a scenario close to what would soon unfold in reality. Johns Hopkins would indeed become the globally acknowledged source for official COVID-19 figures.

Was this just chance? The first supplied answer to this is that pandemic exercises are going on somewhere every few years, which seems reasonable enough. But another potential explanation for this serendipitous planning is that word had already been received of a new mystery ailment in the US (the ‘vaping’ disease) and/or a Wuhan outbreak earlier than official records have acknowledged. This is not impossible given the persecution of Dr Li Wenliang by Chinese authorities when he attempted to raise the alarm in December 2019. Perhaps indications of a virus had been suppressed even before then, which Johns Hopkins received secret notification of? But if so, why did it not speak out publicly and try to prevent higher numbers of infection?

The Wuhan Biosafety Level 4 facility was actively involved in the Event 201 exercises, which concerns some observers. It has been suggested that the facility became more prone to poor security as a result of the high pressure of its role, which is when animals might have been smuggled to the market, raising the irony that the exercise itself may have triggered the very pandemic it was supposed to be preventing.

There are other signs of official foreknowledge. The CDC is known to have begun recruiting extra US employees for a new ‘quarantine programme’ in November 2019 and was part of Event 201. The speed with which bills like the British Coronavirus Act was rushed into law to grant effectively unlimited powers to the government has also been questioned. It seems unlikely this complex and long piece of legislation, barely read by most of the MPs who voted it through with minimal oversight, was thrown together in a few days as claimed. Emergency laws are probably always oven-ready somewhere in the background, but it still raises eyebrows. Likewise, the ability of China to erect entire hospitals in days implies either great efficiency or a programme of pre-planning.

Inevitably, the timing of Event 201 suggests to darker speculators that it may have been part of a deliberate attempt to spread a virus. Could such an apparently ridiculous shock tactic really have been used to try to prepare the world for something bigger, one which the likes of Johns Hopkins fears may be around the corner? Others have declared it the first stage of a wider depopulation programme. Clearly the horrific but limited casualties caused by COVID-19 would seem not to fit this remit and there are easier ways of wiping out human beings (why not create a 100% deadly virus that works first time?), unless it was intended as a moderate culling coldly designed to remove costly sick and elderly people.

Concerns that a later pathogen might somehow activate something spread by this virus have been voiced, while some fear that the coming cure-all vaccine (see below) might even be the medium for that. Needless to say, scientists dismiss such notions as crazed fantasy to be banned from public discussion.


2:  The Doubts

Beyond arguments about the origins of the virus, very controversial doubts have been raised as to whether it exists at all, or at least if its impact has been exaggerated for control and social engineering purposes. Others argue that something else entirely might be creating symptoms which have been wrongly credited to a virus.


ACCUSATION:  The virus is a hoax

ANALYSIS:  Before at least reasonably reliable figures began to come in, many cynics – even in the mainstream – argued that the new mystery disease was nothing more than a particularly virulent form of seasonal flu which had been accidentally compounded with other death causes to give the impression of a major crisis. Assertions that death statistics were no more than normal (but see below) led some to claim that the entire thing was a deliberate and knowing fraud, a global panic purposely designed by the New World Order for political and control agendas.

The hoax scenario is probably the most explosive accusation and has been argued over even amongst truth seekers. It has also been used to further discredit conspiracy believers in the public eye. However, it is worth understanding where such thinking comes from; any students of conspiracy history willing to address actual evidence know that very big deceptions are sometimes perpetrated, and significant medical mistakes do occur. More deaths – hundreds of thousands – occur each year due to misdiagnosis, medicinal misuse and other healthcare errors than almost any other cause. Thus, cynicism towards authority has become a reflex for some observers; the very fact that something is announced in the mainstream is enough reason to assume it isn’t true. But are these grounds for doubting the very existence of COVID-19, which has received such scrutiny and apparently caused such suffering?

It has been openly acknowledged that there have not been enough tests, and many which have taken place have been unreliable and usually have to be done at least three times to get a likely firm result, which does not engender confidence. Some observers believe the ‘Polymerase Chain Reaction’ (PCR) test, which detects RNA (genetic signatures) simply can’t ever be fully reliable because its foundation is inherently vague. More and better tests are now reportedly being introduced, but further difficulty arises over the WHO’s contention that many people who have COVID-19 exhibit no symptoms whatsoever. With this and the uncertain tests, how can we be sure that the many deaths have any COVID connection at all?

The majority of those who have died with the virus – it is accepted that few die of the virus – have had other underlying symptoms or live unhealthy lifestyles (a lot of us, it is being revealed) and are generally older people, although far from all as has been tragically demonstrated. But there are puzzles. It is known that some countries allow COVID to be put down as the cause of death when it is merely “assumed” to be the case in the absence of clear evidence, which has given rise to disquiet. Some doctors in COVID wards have questioned the over-use of ventilators and defibrillators, which may not always be the right treatment for whatever is occurring and could have directly contributed to many fatalities – could these, rather than COVID, explain the deaths? Deaths in Western BAME communities have been strangely high for reasons still unclear; this might be because of social conditions, although casualties in the developing world have mysteriously been less than in developed countries, despite people generally living in even poorer conditions and more closely together. Some argue this is because less tests are being carried out there but, as we have seen, test results have not been solid criteria even in the West. On the other hand, it seems clear that there has been an increase of people dying of something unusual and powerful – otherwise why all the upheaval, extra hospitals and temporary mortuaries? Was British Prime Minister Boris Johnson just hiding for a few weeks when he supposedly caught the virus?

A few dissenting medical staff have questioned what is going on, but most medical experts assure us that the current crisis IS real and due to the virus COVID-19, which we even have alleged micro photos of [pictured in the section below]. Yet some academics draw attention to the fact that there have been recent pandemics on or above a level with this one that have not seen the world turned upside down to combat it – so why now? Further perplexity was caused by a UK government statement in March, never fully explained, that the virus was “no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease” despite the panic. The uncertain recording of COVID cases and deaths, the confusingly varied symptoms and the slow and limited availability of meaningful tests has undoubtedly been a mess especially in Britain, now the worst affected country in Europe if we accept the figures. The scandalous and sometimes deadly shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers (many of whom have died around the world), governments turning down offers from companies to make extra ventilators and other equipment, and the continued flights into airports of thousands of unchecked passengers each week (only now is the UK recommending quarantine measures), might also suggest that authorities aren’t taking this as seriously as they claim, or are operating a secret ‘herd immunity’ programme – but does that equate to something being completely fake?

Hoax proponents consistently claim the death figures for 2020 are merely normal (or even less than normal) but this no longer stands scrutiny, whatever cause the fatalities are put down to. These claims are either a misunderstanding based on figures from before the pandemic properly took hold or a blatant misunderstanding of how the death numbers are compiled.  Now that the deaths and tests are being recorded at least a little more accurately than they were even just two months ago, and because figures are in any case usually three weeks or so behind the real totals, statisticians point to the recent figures as showing a clear upwards trend of deaths that is far beyond normality. Indeed, some think the global figures may be twice or more what we know, with many non-hospital cases (care homes for instance, whose residents are being wiped out at alarming rates) only recently having been included. There is also a marked increase of deaths which are officially not COVID-related, as people fail to report symptoms of other conditions they would previously have gone to A&E for, afraid of burdening the system or catching the virus, and/or because other areas of health care have been detrimentally diverted into COVID measures.

It should be noted that the symptoms of what is currently occurring are often far harsher than flu, and very different, despite what some who haven’t personally witnessed them may say; some doctors and victims have likened it to something closer to altitude sickness, with sufferers gasping for oxygen and producing very thick mucus which is hard to clear from the lungs. Whatever it is, you don’t want to catch it.

For all the reasonable evidence of some kind of new killer at work, hardcore doubters still insist that the extensive coverage of virus hospitals, doctors, nurses, helpers and victims, speaking with great emotion on news reports, must be partially or fully faked in some way. (That is, if they have seen the coverage: some declare they have viewed no convincing footage but state they never watch mainstream news anyway.) The implication of this belief is that thousands of people around the world must be ‘crisis actors’ paid or mind-controlled to front what must be the biggest fraud ever perpetrated, with videos of COVID wards either being staged or represented by stock footage of previous crises. The unavoidable problem with this scenario is the same as with all such claims – how could such a major and seriously unwise undertaking be mounted without accidental exposure or discovery? Wouldn’t all these actors need either a lot of money or continual mind-control to stop them coming forward or breaking their programming? Wouldn’t their real friends and relatives spot them posing on news bulletins and wonder why they were pretending to be other people? Wouldn’t the genuine staff in the real hospitals and establishments watch these false reports and know they weren’t true? The mechanics of staging and covering up such a complex dark endeavour would be huge beyond imagining. In the end, would it not be easier for any controlling powers wanting to create a global crisis to simply release a real virus?

This said, mistakes or misrepresentations have appeared in the media, which have been leapt on by doubters; video of Italian virus wards was broadcast and portrayed by CBS television as being in New York, for instance, and the death of the same teenage boy was reported more than once under different names in different parts of the world. The former (dismissed as an “editing error”) was probably dumb opportunism in the absence of available footage, while the latter has been explained away by fact checking sites as a simple sloppy error, but they naturally raise suspicion. Some manipulation may well have occurred, therefore – but to equate these as proof of a total hoax is a very large leap which has seen the conspiracy ‘community’ vilified by disgusted mainstream sources and used to bring many of its more relevant observations into doubt.

Misinterpretation of visual evidence has not been helpful to truth seekers: videos and reports of empty emergency hospitals – again promoted as evidence of fakery – have often been wards prepared in case of high casualty rates in the hope they would never be needed, as one would surely wish health services to organise. Reports of quiet hospitals in some areas have been used to promote the impression that all hospitals must be having the same experiences when they aren’t. Some areas have been more affected than others, and specific hospitals or health trusts prepared sooner and better than had been initially feared, hence some hastily-erected emergency wards were indeed barely used. Less people came to hospital than normal because they were dissuaded from doing so, A&Es have been quiet because patients avoided non-serious visits and any suspected COVID cases were diverted to quarantine wards. Operations and routine checks were cancelled to create the space for services to cope. So perhaps this is the system succeeding rather than being fraudulent? Videos of ‘dummies’ in hospitals have been exactly that – dummies, prepared for training purposes, not to pose as real human beings, for which sadly there has been no shortage.

We need to understand where such doubts spring from and acknowledge the sometimes-reasonable grounds truthers have to query what they’re being told by historically devious elites – and there are certainly many unanswered questions right now. Wherever the truth lies, on reflection it is hard to say that nothing bad and unusual is going on, particularly if faced with witnesses. I should state here that I have close family members who work in the British NHS (National Health Service). One is a doctor, one a trainee doctor, and another an ambulance driver. Through them we have heard first-hand accounts of the new horrors currently striking people down and the abnormal numbers of cases. Two of these relatives have now been diagnosed as having COVID-19 themselves, which is personal cause for concern. I assume they have not been mind-controlled or quietly hired as very good actors. Others will hold me to be naïve; that is their choice.


ACCUSATION:  The virus is real, but its scale and severity has been exaggerated for effect

ANALYSIS:  Putting aside hoax theories, has the world overreacted to the pandemic? For whether it is being inflated for social and economic engineering – and thus global control – and to generate enormous profits for pharmaceutical companies is another matter altogether. If we accept that a crisis of some kind has been occurring, it inevitably required certain restrictions and governments had to act or they would rightly be accused of neglect. But will far more deaths occur in the long run as a result of the consequent global recession, deprivation, mental health issues and diversion of resources?

Professor Karol Sikora has predicted a possible 60,000 deaths in the UK alone from cancers that would otherwise have been treated in normal times. Would things have been better or worse, then, if we had not gone into emergency measures? Some assert that Sweden, which implemented some social distancing but did not enter lockdown is a good model that other nations might have followed. Yet Sweden has actually recorded some of the highest deaths per million; the figure looks small because their population is less than many countries. The fact is that lockdown appeared to work in some countries (South Korea, for example) and not in others. These are conundrums sure to be troubling parliaments, enquiries and thinktanks for years to come even aside from conspiracy accusations.

It is notable, however, that even some mainstream sources have voiced concerns about a misrepresentation of the importance of the virus. A much-circulated interview with California doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi sees them passionately speaking out about the pressure being applied to classify uncertain cases as COVID-related and claiming (though they are demonstrably misinformed on this and they have been criticised by other doctors for it) that the symptoms and casualty figures are no worse than standard flu and lockdowns are unjustified. Previous modern epidemics like SARS, MERS, swine flu, bird flu, Ebola, etc., generated worries, precautions and many deaths – but not a panicked global shutdown like this.

One under-discussed aspect is that the COVID symptoms are particularly severe, causing torment on levels that have left both survivors and health workers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The pandemic should perhaps be judged not only on the numbers of deaths, but also on the deeply detrimental effects. Another much-heard Malthusian trope is that as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed around 50 million people, what’s the fuss around the ‘mere’ 300,000 or so we have lost at the time of writing? Defenders point out that had the world been put into today’s lockdown back then, perhaps many less would have died. Scales are inevitably hard to grasp when they get too big, but we might consider that if 300,000 people died as a result of a dramatic meteor strike, say, this would be seen as one of the worse tragedies of modern times. When that number die mostly out of sight, oddly we shrug. Knowing people who have died or lost loved ones brings the reality home, of course.

Despite these justifications, many insist the response is disproportionate and deeply resent lockdowns, though we are told they are necessary. They are indeed an infringement of freedom, especially given that Britain, now relaxing its restrictions very slightly, has proposed a possible extended lockdown for the over-70s (at one point it was the over-60s being discussed) for many more months, causing outrage amongst those affected who are in sound health. What amounts to ongoing house arrest is unlikely to work in reality; we are already seeing small-scale rebellions, but also full-scale protests on the streets of the US and in other parts of the world; characterised by the media as being ignorant extremists, this is not a fair reflection of the demographic who share concerns.

Finding a balance between security and liberty is always difficult. Our tolerance for constraints depends on our belief – or not – in the virus threat. The question is, do we take the risk that it’s all madly over-inflated and that we can never catch or spread it, in the face of fairly convincing evidence that something is definitely not normal? Is a certain amount of casualties acceptable as the price for restoring everyday life and rebooting the economy? Official figures and tests have admittedly been unreliable up to now and there is undoubted confusion but, as noted, some conspiracy interpretations of the figures are fundamentally flawed too. So which data does one believe? Truthers have a tendency to reject official figures which don’t support their views but in the next breath do accept official data when it suits them, which isn’t helpful either.

Some have suggested that the authorities are not complicit with an exaggeration but have simply followed well-meant scientific advice that was inherently flawed in its assumptions as to how COVID-19 would behave. The most severe predictions have not come to pass, maybe because of measures taken but also because we have not understood that this is a very different kind of virus, which some claim can sometimes reduce strength of its own accord with or without antibodies. Others challenge this, stating that the apparent curve flattening is due to lockdowns ensuring the virus simply runs out of people to transmit to, but emerging again as soon as rules are relaxed. But are government sources reliable? British COVID advisor Dr Neil Ferguson, for instance, has a reputation for massively over-estimating outbreak figures, most infamously with damagingly over-inflated cattle foot and mouth disease projections in 2001, and few will have mourned his resignation this month when caught breaking lockdown rules.

One factor which has been under-exaggerated, suspiciously receiving minimum coverage, is that peer-review journal The Lancet recently published a paper suggesting that people on widely used hypertension and diabetes medications (which work on the Angiotensin-converting enzymes or ‘ACE’ receptors in the brain) are more prone to COVID-19 (which enters via this very receptor). This might explain certain otherwise unexplained patterns of vulnerability. People with diabetes are statistically more prone to the virus, but it might be the treatments as much as the condition playing a role, something drug companies seem predictably reluctant to publicise.

What can be universally agreed on is that our freedom HAS been curtailed by this pandemic. Countries used to authoritarian rule are inevitably more comfortable with limitations; supposedly democratic nations like the UK and USA, for whom freedom is a key expectation, are finding this more than uncomfortable but have made sacrifices nonetheless. However, the draconian shutdown of free speech and surge in outright censorship and surveillance was perhaps not anticipated to the degree we are seeing, and this is where dissent is growing, though the media will not discuss it. With the WHO having seemingly become a dictatorial force with global influence over sovereign parliaments, and acts of Parliament being rushed through with dubious long-term outcomes, it is the lingering powers of control which are perhaps the greatest cause for concern. The arrival of a situation that requires the curtailment of liberties has been serendipitous for ruling elites, hence what many hold to be a deliberate inflation. Even if the virus is indeed as bad as we are being told, the dire consequences for freedom may be the same anyway, as explored below.


ACCUSATION:  The pandemic was inflated to cover up the real causes of an imminent world economic crash and to ‘reset’ the economy

ANALYSIS:  A number of indications from within the world of banking suggest that even without COVID-19 the world was about to take a massive economic tumble in the very weeks that the virus went big. The encouragement of overly severe coronavirus precautions sure to damage the global economy may have made for an excellent cover for the financial sector’s missteps, which had dangerously over-extended loan periods and (again) allowed unwise levels of credit to build. Now the virus can be blamed for it all.

The massive financial fallout is likely to be more devastating than is currently being acknowledged and may affect the geopolitical landscape in dangerous ways with dire results for developing countries, leading to deprivation, civil unrest, war and new immigrant crises. A new crash was always likely after the 2008 event, as similar contributing defects had continued on, and there was disquiet building in world markets in the run-up to the announcement of major virus lockdowns. Economist Ann Pettifor, author of The Coming First World Debt Crisis, speaking on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show in February this year said there was a “70% chance of recession in the next six months” and that the virus might well be a trigger point, though other economists have played down her remarks. The dispute between Russia and OPEC over oil production was also weakening markets even before full lockdowns began.  The subsequent reduction of oil prices to their lowest in modern times, with huge financial and social implications, would at any other time been a massive news story but barely registered as the pandemic stole the headlines.

A now oft-heard statement is that the virus will “reset” the economy, for good or ill, if largely ill for most of us – though not for the put-option winners and other market players, nor indeed for pharmaceutical companies, with substantial gains coming their way. Governments appear to have been generous with their furlough, loan and benefit schemes but we will all more than pay it back in the end, beholden to the state, with debt ceilings raised hugely and years of enforced austerity ahead, whatever they call it. Smaller companies and self-employed ventures are more likely to fail, handing dominance to the larger entities which survive. Quantitative Easing (basically, inventing money out of nowhere) and simply giving people handouts (Modern Monetary Theory or ‘helicopter money’, as if thrown down from the air) were being promoted as the solution to a coming crisis as early as December 2019, although there is trepidation about the possible inflationary consequences. The trouble is, the overtly collectivist policies already brought in to support people’s livelihoods during the economic disruption could lead to the creation of a heavily controlled form of socialism – effectively a kind of communism – holding the average person down while privileged elites take even more power. But perhaps the economy was about to be reset anyway, which may or may not make some people feel slightly better.

It has been noted that in 2017 the World Bank initiated a $500 million series of pandemic bonds, designed to be activated in the event of a very unlikely… well, pandemic. Cynics see this as evidence of foreknowledge in high places. In truth catastrophe insurance bonds are an ongoing phenomenon as one might expect, but if nothing else there has been controversy over how and when companies pay out as they rig things in their favour in the name of doing good.

Other banking theories abound. Some assert that the PR elevation of a manageable epidemic into a disastrous pandemic was designed not to cover up a coming crash, but to initiate one, to ruin either the US, Chinese or global economy and make way for a post-apocalyptic financial power grab. Others have even suggested it was a distraction from the imminent fiscal fallout of the UK’s exit from the European Union. It will certainly be harder now to work out in retrospect whether any negative changes were due to Brexit or the virus. Those fearing the whole thing was a Brexit-scuppering exercise may relax a little, though: the EU’s response to the outbreak has been weak and hardly unified, with the Schengen zone falling apart almost overnight. When it came to the crunch, it was every country for itself.


ACCUSATION:  5G technology is the real cause of ‘virus symptoms’ – or at least makes people more vulnerable to COVID-19

ANALYSIS:  The linking of the recent introduction of 5G communications to supposed virus symptoms and the subsequent alleged attacks on transmission masts has been the enabling point for the establishment to label all conspiracy claims about COVID-19 as actively perilous to health and public order. The profile of the 5G allegations was raised by a much-publicised broadcast by conspiracy icon David Icke on London Live’s London Real show. Though a small channel, the programme was streamed through mainstream platforms and was well-watched, hence the wrath of journalists and media regulator Ofcom which has resulted in Google, YouTube and other companies now removing any new material which questions WHO advice or the safety of 5G. Icke himself has been banned from Facebook. This upscaling of online censorship has extremely serious implications, discussed below. Many everyday folk support this suppression because they are scared and uninformed about the arguments; always a dangerous combination for free speech, which authorities play on.

This is not an article about 5G and the controversial disputes about its possible effects on health, some useful guides to which can be found here and here. The basics are that the issues are not settled but there are grounds to explore them. Contrary to the media impression that all who question are ‘crackpots’ and ‘lunatics’, an unusual number of respected medical professionals and scientists have voiced serious concerns about the biological impact of 5G. We are forever assured that a majority of academics believe the technology is safe, though we may recall that a majority of academics once believed Thalidomide was a good idea or that lead pipes were safe for water. The electromagnetic soup we all now live in due to wireless broadband, smart devices and microwave transmitters concerns many qualified researchers, but their observations have been sidelined by a powerful industry with much to lose if a problem was officially identified. The fact is that 5G, another high intensity system which requires many more transmitters at closer ranges, should be under more scrutiny than it is – just in case. People have a right to express concerns, but the ability to do so is now being removed.

Does this mean 5G is ‘causing’ symptoms publicly attributed to the virus, though? A firm mechanism for this has not been identified, depending on who you believe (one explanation can be read here), but 5G is considered by pessimists to compromise the immune system or contribute to the oxygen-deprivation condition hypoxia, which has symptoms not dissimilar to COVID-19. Deniers of such claims say that 5G simply cannot impair the human system this way. Doubters, however, point to the odd coincidence that Wuhan was one of the early 5G ‘test bed’ cities and thousands of transmitters had been switched on just weeks before reports of respiratory ailments began there. Patterns of serious outbreaks in other early 5G cities, such as New York (which switched on in August 2019, coincidentally or not around the time the mystery ‘vaping’ reactions started occurring), have been cited as evidence of a link.

Conversely, it was claimed widely that the virus-hit cruise liner Diamond Princess had just installed 5G, but the Princess Cruises company says it is not yet operating on their vessels. Also, countries and cities without 5G have seen large outbreaks attributed to COVID-19, while some with it have few or no cases, and it is clear that the condition can be transmitted to others, which makes little sense if 5G is the cause. If it is, victims in areas where the technology is operating ought to be suffering from recurring symptoms that are never recovered from; yet the majority return to health. If 5G is contributing to the current malady it remains unproven and there are illogicalities. Yet if prolonged exposure to it is in any way detrimental, as its qualified detractors assert, it is not impossible resistance to the virus might be impaired by its presence.

How long those detractors continue to raise their voices in public remains to be seen. The strong media condemnation of anyone who, in a time of crisis, raises even a modicum of balanced thought towards 5G may well have done its job. The British TV presenter Eamonn Holmes was recently vilified for just daring to suggest the media shouldn’t always assume its own beliefs are correct, even though he dismissed the 5G/virus conspiracy claims. US actors Woody Harrelson and John Cusack, and UK celebrity Amanda Holden, were also among those criticised for supporting 5G concerns, some withdrawing their comments after or claiming ‘re-tweets’ of 5G material were accidental. It is often said by the establishment that “no-one in the mainstream believes conspiracy theories”, when the reality is they do but dare not raise their voices lest well-paid careers are derailed. As for the rare one who did – former sports commentator David Icke – he knows exactly what awaits those who step out of line but has learned to thrive on such controversy. This time, however, his gift of speaking the unspeakable and failure to entirely condemn the burning of communications masts on London Live may have brought down the last small vestiges of tolerance that the conspiracy world had from the establishment. Some believe the furore helped promote concerns about 5G, and Icke has actually gained followers as a result, but the consequent clampdown has been unquestionably harsh (below) and even mainstream pundits have expressed worries about the perilous implications of his Facebook ban.

As for those mast fires caused by ‘5G crackpots’, did they really occur as we have been told? Details have been scant, with a few inconclusive images and no prosecutions. If real, they probably haven’t been helpful, at a time when communications are crucial and scapegoats are needed. Most compromised masts seem to be 4G anyway, which plays into the hands of those who accuse truthers of poor reasoning. In turn, the accused suspect false-flag tactics to help discredit alternative thinkers and push them to the far fringes where their voices will become distant and irrelevant, which is a whole other conspiracy notion which may well be playing out.


3:  The Consequences

We are told that COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future, with possibly more waves and disruption to come – at least unless a cure is found. But how safe will that cure be? What ‘necessary’ compromises will we have to make for this new society to work and how free will we be at the other end of it..?


The Consequences… for Our Health

Not catching the virus – if you believe there is one – is clearly advisable, and some sensible measures will be required of us for a while, whether we agree with them or not. Healthy-living people are more resilient, as one would expect, but as for a cure… The WHO has notably played down the idea that herd immunity can protect us long-term, as cases have been reported of people contracting the disease more than once, although other experts have contradicted this. Until very recently, antibody checking has been even less reliable than COVID detection methods, although we are now promised an imminent new antibody test which is “100%” accurate on people who have been infected. However, as it is being stated loudly that having antibodies is not a guarantee against catching the virus again, a vaccine is still likely to be recommended as the only lasting defence – if one can be found that works. Conspiracy thinkers are inevitably sure that it will be claimed one does. Top-up vaccinations, like annual flu jabs, may apparently be required whenever another wave of COVID comes along (joining the pantheon of ongoing background diseases), although this raises questions about the scheme’s entire basis given that even medical professionals admit that the benefits of flu jabs are very uncertain.

It has become impossible to have a sensible conversation about vaccination in the mainstream, so powerful has been the vitriol spilled over it. The undeniable fact is that a vocal minority worry about its safety and effectiveness, while scientists attack them as badly misguided or far worse. This is not an article which addresses that. But a big dilemma is heading the way of the doubters.

We are told that a vaccination may arrive this year or next, the speed of which is extraordinary given how long one usually takes to develop. This has opened accusations (again) that, far from being new, this virus has long been known, whether natural or lab-developed, though we are assured that the rapidity is due to the benevolent skill and determination of vaccine producers. Even some who support vaccination have wondered how safe such a rushed solution can be, especially as some of the usual animal testing stages have reportedly been skipped.

Two camps thus emerge: those, in the majority, who welcome a vaccine and will be queuing up for it as soon as one is publicly available, and those with a fear of being forced to have something which may produce under-researched side effects or, at the more extreme end of belief, carry a deadly pathogen. If only a vaccine is perceived to protect us and the antibody solution is dismissed, how soon before we will need one to be allowed into certain spaces or to travel? If not blatantly mandatory (contrary to some online scares there are NO current laws which yet allow this, in the UK at least) nevertheless if it becomes impossible to socialise without having received a vaccine it would amount to the same thing. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has openly put forward plans for vaccines that leave a traceable digital imprint, so there would be no evasion and it would become the equivalent of the long-feared human microchipping programme. On top of the virus-tracking phone apps already required in some countries and being introduced here now, founded on information from tests which aren’t yet reliable, the surveillance state will have truly arrived if it hasn’t already. With no open dissent allowed, and vaccine-questioners placed on a level with Holocaust deniers, who will ever be able to question the pharmaceutical companies or even be permitted to try to reveal an honest mistake they might make somewhere down the line?

It is traditional for factions in the conspiracy world to accuse the Gates Foundation, a major driver of the vaccine-only solution, of having shadowy motivations. The Foundation has been behind many global immunisation projects and is one of the main funders of the WHO, along with other lobbyists such as GAVI, the Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunisation. US medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, who in 2017 predicted the arrival of a surprise virus, has connections with Gates and funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in recent years. These groups and individuals are angelic forces saving the world, Satanic influences or just people doing their job, depending on your standpoint. The Gates-linked Pirbright Institute and the CDC bizarrely own patents on various strains of coronaviruses (though not specifically COVID-19 according to Gates defenders) and consequently have rights to vaccines which might work on them if they emerge into the world. There will be huge profits for pharmaceutical companies under any vaccine-only cure. The Gates Foundation is charitable, but Bill Gates is seemingly keen to be seen as the saviour of the world and is indeed likely to be feted if responsible for an outwardly successful ‘cure’. Whether these forces are part of an intentional plot is in the eye of the beholder, but powerful bodies will always be viewed with suspicion when censorship of alternative opinions becomes as stark as it is now. Information sharing regarding any other suggested therapy paths, hydroxychloroquinehigh dose vitamins, etc., even when recommended by health professionals, are being actively suppressed by WHO rules.

Whatever the doubts and real motivations, the stark reality seems to be that unless antibody immunity can be proved and successfully tested for, we are likely heading for a world which significantly advantages those who have been immunised, with routine temperature checks in public places, tracking apps as standard and all dissenters silenced or marginalised. Many will think this a perfectly acceptable sacrifice for a good and better world – but at what cost to our freedom of choice, movement and speech?


The Consequences for… Our Freedom

At 2019’s Glastonbury Symposium, I gave a talk, which can be watched here, in which I warned of the creeping online censorship eroding freedom of speech. But even I hadn’t anticipated how quickly the pandemic would accelerate the process. The crisis is being used to remove any material questioning WHO advice, but other ‘alternative’ content is being targeted too. The actual police states which have arisen to regulate movement, question travellers, fly drones to monitor behaviour and demand people leave their own front gardens have been extraordinary. Apologies have been made for some of the sillier over-reactions, and the public have admirably stood against abuses in a number of countries, but the implications remain worrying. The British Corona Act gives the government unlimited powers if it chooses to use them. Initially set to last two years, they can be renewed at any time, prompting even Conservative MP Robert Courts to voice notable disquiet.

A degree of regulation and monitoring to contain the spread of infection and the flow of obviously bad information on online platforms can be understood when lives appear to be at stake (although no-one expurgated President Trump for implying the ingestion of bleach might be a good idea), but so-called ‘fake news’ is highly subjective and the censorship is now pushing into immoral territory. Especially since the 5G masts debacle, common sense has ended and poorly conceived algorithms are being employed to shred the likes of YouTube and Google; anything that goes near the new strictures soon disappears. On-message material has also fallen foul, triggered by woolly key-word systems. There are even unconfirmed reports of private messages sent through Facebook Messenger being blocked; astonishing if true. There is a little evidence of YouTube realising it may have gone too far at least; some removed videos have reappeared after protests but the powers that be still have the upper hand.

It is clear this crisis is being used to generate a sea-change of what is acceptable on mainstream platforms with the predictable result that anything deemed ‘conspiracy-related’ is vanishing – long the desire of governments and elites. Its effects are becoming obvious. Broadcast during lockdown, a show on UK television’s Channel Four recently criticised Amazon Prime TV for featuring conspiracy documentaries and goaded Amazon into removing Loose Change, a well-known film which questions 9/11. There are no illegal views espoused, just reasonable questions about the many anomalies of 9/11. On what grounds did Channel 4 object? None: it was just assumed such material shouldn’t be widely available. A BBC article recently attacked truthers for criticising the aforementioned ‘elites’, as if such a thing was an innately hateful thing to do, and employed the now usual tactic of falsely associating all conspiracy thinking with far-right views. Such are the times we are moving into, with alternative voices pushed to the far fringe where the hope would appear to be that future generations will never hear them, nor want to. This Huxleyan/Orwellian world has been feared for a long time but to see it fall into place so overtly and so swiftly still feels shocking. Free speech has also been furloughed it would seem, perhaps forever.

Some of our social habits will be permanently altered by the virus too. It has now been demonstrated that work, education, shopping and conversation conducted via technology from our homes is more viable than previously thought and is likely to be fostered. Noting the undoubted clearing of our air during the lockdowns, green campaigners are welcoming and urging less travel. Although positive on environmental levels, some fear a new green authoritarianism which will have significant side effects: travel, especially by air (with several companies collapsing or reducing), will become financially prohibitive to many, creating further class divisions, while high streets and malls, already depleted, will empty further in the new global recession. This will leave more people spending time at home in contained and closely monitored ‘smart’ social environments which will soon know our every action, from opening the fridge to putting the kettle on, from the amount of water we use to the sewage we produce. In addition to the increased electromagnetic exposure, we will invite Big Brother further into our homes.

Online conversations through Skype, Zoom and other platforms are already recorded by internet companies for ‘marketing purposes’; the potentially very useful data doubtless becomes available to other prying authorities in due course. The acceleration of a fully traceable ‘cashless society’, promoted as more hygienic, will add to this monitoring, while continued ‘social distancing’ and curtailed physical behaviour is known to alienate people from each other, creating less connected generations which are easier to control. Glass dividing screens may become the norm in shops, cafes and work places, and even handshakes may never return. At the same time we are now told on a daily basis that giving up personal privacy is the price for a safer world. Those already objecting to the virus-tracking apps are being vilified by compliant citizens for ‘endangering society’; the usual blackmail used to silence individualists. The UK app is foolishly centralised (as well as being bug-ridden and too indiscriminate in its range), creating security and misuse issues, a system which Germany has ditched for that reason.

There has been a fight-back from some quarters, not just from conspiracy types but also mainstream voices, which could develop into something meaningful. Throw Alexa and Siri spying devices out of your house, cover up your computer camera when it’s not needed, stop using Google and try less surveilled search engines such as DuckDuckGo as an opening remedy. Most Brits, who have probably never read Magna Carta or the 1689 Bill of Rights, are quick to grumble but slow to act, though they may yet wake up when the reality of their new cages dawn. US campaigners, more cherishing of historic constitutional rights, probably stand the best chance of turning this around, especially with an unpredictable president easily swayed by a dread of losing his core support. Waving rifles around at anti-lockdown protests may not be the wisest way of gaining sympathy from the rest of the world, admittedly, and another road is needed, but we should certainly not be herded into our pens quietly. Object now, while you still can.


The Consequences for… Better Things

Let’s end on a positive note. A number of optimists have pointed out the benefits that might yet come from the pandemic lockdown. Although hardcore truthers see all mainstream observations as psy-ops distraction (certainly the staccato repetition of the word ‘unprecedented’, whirling virus logos and sad piano music in news bulletins feel like mind programming now), the reality is that there have been identifiably positive developments.

Lockdown has been hard for those in smaller spaces and nowhere to go, and being separated from loved ones can be traumatising. But in times of crisis people also rediscover the importance of community spirit and that has happened now, with neighbourly support networks helping those needing shopping and care. After the mad and thoughtless panic buying (not exactly prevented by the doomy tones employed by the media) which saw hand sanitisers and toilet rolls becoming a currency, local redistribution projects made sure those without were rescued. Kindness has currency too.

People – perhaps the majority – used to spending days in stress and rush, suddenly faced with weeks of not much have been able to re-evaluate who and what matters in their lives. There will be many career changes after this, some chosen, not forced. Families have rediscovered each other, reconnected with walks in nature, and had time to think; relationships have been healed even while some have fallen apart and domestic abuse has rocketed. The latter is far from positive, but the new acknowledgement of what’s going on behind closed doors might yet offer a chink of light for the victims. If people have learned to stand up and be counted without fear and there is a community to catch them, some good may come. We have learnt to take care of ourselves a little more too, thinking twice before showing up at A&E for minor scrapes, coping in crises with determination instead of meekly expecting instant rescue from somewhere else.

There might also be a re-evaluation of the importance of hospital and care workers. Countries without them may think about creating proper health services and here in the UK we might even stop running the one we have to the bone and start paying sensible wages if the financial mess is ever cleared up. Clapping for carers each Thursday evening is lovely but no substitute for actual funding and practical support. Think what you like of what this period has been about; those people are there and you might one day need them yourself.

As this article has identified, there are a lot of crucial freedoms and causes to be fought for right now. If you’ve been bored by the time on your hands in recent months, you might want to ask why. If so, put Candy Crush down for ten minutes and write a letter to an authority or post a complaint or support someone or do something. Shouting on forums and refusing to watch mainstream media won’t be enough. It’s true that the powers that be are probably going to do what they want regardless of what an increasingly marginalised bunch of truth campaigners think; history may well question aspects of how the world behaved during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic but essentially the narrative is set whether we believe in it or not. That doesn’t mean that we should go quietly into servitude, though.

The human spirit generally resists tyranny in the end and the small things we do now to call attention to the current coup on freedom, huge though the task might look, may count somewhere down the line. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Positive things will grow from these times, yes, but if we have had to sacrifice our fundamental liberties to enable them we may look back and wonder why we didn’t do more. If what’s going on now is the much discussed ‘reset’, let’s help reset things our way in a fair and balanced manner.

“Stay safe” then – in every sense.


Copyright © Andy Thomas 2020,


UPDATE (August 2020):

Since this article was uploaded, there have been further developments, and yet the basic situation hasn’t changed. Faster tests are now being introduced, but those tests’ very provenance and meaningfulness is still questioned by an alarming number of health professionals, and so the claimed results and statistical numbers of casualties and deaths based on them remain in question. Officially there have now been over 700,000 deaths, but even some mainstream media voices are raising serious concerns about the amount of deaths credited to COVID-19 that are plainly unrelated: people falling down stairs, for instance, dying from injuries a few weeks later, are put down as COVID deaths if they show any trace of a positive test, which may be nothing to do with their passing away. On 12th August 2020, the British government cranked down its national death figures by 12% after protests about this, but many believe the real figures should go lower still.

Governments’ responses to the virus remain inconsistent and seemingly random. If they are really ‘following the science’, exactly which science and how reliable it is in the first place has still not been resolved. Many countries (including the UK) have now introduced compulsory mask-wearing in specific public places, raising wide concerns from numerous health professionals who question the basis of this decision and point out potential long-term harms both medical and psychological. See my statement about masks here.

A guaranteed cure-all vaccine remains elusive, with talk instead of ones that might have to be administered annually, like flu jabs, with various admitted side-effects, but as the article highlights this doesn’t do much to instil confidence; many people remain afraid of being used as guinea pigs and have said they will object to a mandatory vaccination programme. [November 2020 further update: several vaccines are now ready to be deployed, rushed into production after mere months instead of the usual years of development, but questions remain over their safety and whether a series of ongoing shots may be required. People who express concerns are being blanketly labelled “anti-vaxxers,” which is often unfair and incorrect: some have goodwill towards vaccination but have understandable concerns about the health of themselves and their loved ones in case mistakes might have been made, which seems reasonable enough.]

Meanwhile, the word ‘unprecedented’, as already picked up on above, is now almost certainly being used as a mind-programming device, deployed far and wide in almost every news bulletin, even in reference to non-COVID topics, as if it saying it were now contractual. Why should this be, especially given that such a situation is not, in fact, unprecedented, as the very similar unfolding of events in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic demonstrate? The answer to the overuse of this now infuriating word would seem to be that by implying that all normal parameters no longer apply we are snowblinded and allow authorities to do anything they want – either to control us or to completely drop their usual commitments to openness and freedom – because we come to believe there must be no choice and that all bets are off, because, after all, everything is, well… unprecedented. A neat trick.

In other words, months on from this original article, the jury remains out on the true scale and nature of this pandemic. The censorship of any alternative views on it has since gone into overdrive and yet polls suggest that large numbers of people now harbour doubts about the official story – meaning that people will always reserve the right to have their own views on things no matter how much they are silenced. Allowing a full and proper public debate would be wiser.


I would like to thank the following, all of whom, through endless email discussions and conversations, have contributed to my understanding of the issues here, especially Barry Reynolds and Martin Noakes, but also Dick Alder, Marcus Allen, Mary Bennett, Terry BoardmanJohn Bowen, Bruce Charlton, David DeVall and Helen Sewell.