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The pandemic

China lab leak was no “conspiracy theory”

Guards outside the laboratory where Covid-19 may have originated. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

The possibility that Covid-19 was leaked from a Chinese lab was dismissed as a “deranged conspiracy theory” early in the pandemic, says Glenn Greenwald in his Substack newsletter. Anyone dissenting from the official narrative – that the virus arose naturally in a wet market in the city of Wuhan – was accused of spreading “disinformation” and banned from social media platforms such as Facebook. Debate about Covid’s origins was verboten: “It had all been settled by The Science.”

Yet in recent months it has become clear that the “official consensus” was anything but settled. The mainstream media’s apparent certainty that the virus emerged naturally was based on an assertion by a group of scientists in a letter to renowned science journal The Lancet. One of those scientists was Peter Daszak, whose organisation had awarded a grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to support research into coronaviruses in bats – a “gigantic” conflict of interest revealed only in July 2021. Facebook, The New York Times and even the White House quickly changed their tune: lab leak went from an “insane conspiracy theory that must be censored” to a “serious possibility”. But their earlier stance raises serious questions about the reliability of the American media and the weight given to “dubious” sources.