A Dangerous Crank

Read Time:7 Minutes

By Bruce Wallace

A curious paradox is that public attacks on prominent lockdown sceptics and scientists critical of government pandemic policy have intensified in inverse proportion to the welcome fall in covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

Moreover, the anti-sceptic witch-hunt is a poorly camouflaged operation coordinated between the government and certain, for hire, media hounds. Contracted out to lead the purge is Neil O’Brien, Conservative MP for Harborough, Oadby & Wigston, who has set up a website to combat purveyors of covid misinformation called ‘Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ’ [1].

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg announced that O’Brien’s efforts were ‘fantastic’, raising suspicion that he has been tasked with rooting out covid heresy unofficially on the government’s behalf, given that O’Brian himself is a junior government minister in the Justice Department [2].

Marked as heretics

O’Brian’s website has lists of those marked as heretics to be publicly shamed and attacked under the headings (1) Academics, (2) Journalists and (3) On-line sceptics.

Amongst the academics listed for heresy hunting is Professor Carl Heneghan, of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine [3] and Editor-in Chief-of the BMJ journal of Evidence Based Medicine, who is the focus of this article.

The Guardian newspaper had been preparing the ground for the witch-hunt for some time with a string of despicable character assassinations [4], illiberal calls for censorship [5] and contemptible insinuations [6].

The columnist Sonya Sodha sat in judgement on heretical scientists in the Guardian on 22 Nov last year in her opinion piece.

“We need scientists to quiz the Covid consensus, not to act as agents of disinformation.” [7]

Sodah declared: “It’s essential for the status quo to be challenged. But those who claim to be bold outliers need to draw on evidence, not cry censorship.”

I tried not to boke [vomit – Ed] as Sodha proceeded to besmirch the reputation of eminent scientists. How could Sodha, who has an Oxford MA in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), have anything objective to say about science given she’s not even a science journalist? She really is an insufferably arrogant member of the London-centric media glitterati: Ex-advisor to Ed Miliband, Brexit-hating [8], elitist, illiberal harridan of the worst sort possible who has never done a day’s work in her life.

As she eulogised the efficacy of masking with selective citing of ‘observational’ studies, it made me think that the only benefit they might possibly convey was in covering Sodha’s malicious and mendacious gob.

She attacked Heneghan for writing an article with his colleague Tom Jefferson for the Spectator on 22 Nov last year [9]. It welcomed the Danish mask study in 2020, which was the first large scale randomised control study of it’s type ever undertaken for the efficacy of face masks in protecting the wearer from covid. The study itself had to penetrate a wall of official opposition to its publication because its findings didn’t fit with the dominant covid narrative [10].

Heneghan’s article was then outrageously banned by Facebook as ‘disinformation’. Sodha surmised:

“When Facebook rightly classified Heneghan’s piece as false information, rather than engage with the substance of the critique, he took to social media to tweet:   ‘What has happened to academic freedom and freedom of speech?’, a message shared by prominent mask sceptics.”

Such ‘mask sceptics’ as Dame Helena Morrissey, a Conservative member of the UK House of Lords, who tweeted: 

“This is a very dangerous direction of travel with respect to what science actually is; our freedom of expression, diversity of thought, and democratic norms, irrespective of what anyone thinks about Covid-19,”

That’s right Sodha, it was banned by Facebook, so how the heck could Heneghan ‘engage with the substance of the critique’ given that his article was already ‘rightly classified’ as ‘false information’ and when the article itself had been banned?! [11]

The substance was a blank page on Facebook. Such are the ‘methods’ and perverted logic of the professional gas lighters of the Guardian’s covid Oprichniks [12].

Heneghan responded: “There is nothing in this article that is ‘false’.”

The article was restored as Facebook didn’t have a leg to stand on, but this was just the beginning of the assault on Heneghan as he was targeted by O’Brien’s operation.

Let’s talk about it?

On Jan 30 this year, Heneghan appeared on Julia Hartley Brewer’s (JHB) Talk Radio morning show [13]. JHB is herself on the proscribed list as a heretical journalist on O’Brien’s site. Heneghan was forthright on the issue of the suppression of scientific debate. There was a debate going on at a high academic level about the response to the pandemic amongst theoreticians and clinicians. A swath of scientists and clinicians were concerned about the management of the pandemic and the impact of lockdown. Many were reticent to speak out publicly for fear of personal attacks via social media takedown. Heneghan found it strange that, as he had been involved in working on diseases for twenty-five years, an MP thought he had suddenly ‘lost his marbles’?

Perfectly reasonably, Heneghan proposed that if O’Brien thought that he had got things wrong during a fast-moving pandemic that he was perfectly willing to meet him face to face to discuss these disagreements live on Talk Radio.

Such was the disquiet aroused by O’Brien’s witch-hunt that the Editor of the Spectator, Fraser Nelson, who supports the current lockdown policy, felt motivated to write a largely apologetic article in the Telegraph about the suppression of academic freedom on 6 Feb [14].

“A few months ago, Heneghan was being consulted by the Prime Minister – who wanted him to test the arguments of the (many) lockdown advocates in Government. Also invited was Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford and an energetic critic of lockdown. She now joins Prof Heneghan on the official list of heretics, pilloried on a website whose various sponsors include a well-regarded Tory MP tipped for promotion. It’s all very odd.”

Not so odd when we consider the triangulation between government, the bio-industrial complex and the mainstream media to maintain the plague narrative. Dissenters to that narrative need to be silenced using any despicable means necessary.

New Normal morals

The most distasteful aspect of the whole affair is that Heneghan also doubles as a weekend urgent care NHS doctor. He pointed out that he hadn’t had such a prominent public profile over the Christmas period because he was doing his job administering medical care to covid patients in the community, including in care homes. Meanwhile O’Brien’s site was attacking him on both a professional and personal level.

JHB publicly challenged O’Brien on Twitter to meet Prof Heneghan in open debate. 

O’Brien refused to accept the challenge: “Hello Julia. People can judge Carl’s record for themselves on the link below (furnishing a link to his scurrilous website). I don’t think he needs any more publicity – you are one of few people still promoting his claims.”

JHB replied: “Oh dear. So @NeilDotObrien is quite happy to smear an eminent Oxford Professor as a ‘Covid denier’ for raising legitimate questions about Govt policy but he refuses to meet to debate the evidence for and against that policy. I think that tells us all we need to know.”

It does. In the New Normal, where the world has been turned upside down, cowardice and boot-licking have been elevated to become desirable moral virtues. O’Brien’s detractors and supporters piled on in equal measure. One of his followers, a physician no less, commented that Heneghan was ‘a dangerous crank’. Someone better tell Oxford and the NHS Trust he works for!


[1] Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson (Oxford CEBM) (covidfaq.co) 

[2] Neil O’Brien – Wikipedia   

[3] Home — Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), University of Oxford 

[4] Anti-vaxxers posing as victims has a history. Look at Andrew Wakefield | Social media | The Guardian 

[5] Covid lies cost lives – we have a duty to clamp down on them | Coronavirus | The Guardian 

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/17/id-love-to-ignore-covid-sceptics-and-their-tall-tales-but-they-make-a-splash-and-have-no-shame

[7] We need scientists to quiz Covid consensus, not act as agents of disinformation | Coronavirus | The Guardian 

[8] BBC News Letwin Amendment 19 Oct 2019 with Sonia Sodha – YouTube 

[9] Carl Heneghan & Tom Jefferson | The Spectator columnists & writers 

[10] On the Suppressed Danish Mask Study – Swiss Policy Research (swprs.org) 

[11] ‘What happened to academic freedom?’ Scientist fumes as Facebook flags Covid-19 study questioning mask effectiveness as ‘false’ — RT World News 

[12] Oprichnina – Wikipedia 

[13] Carl Heneghan “what we should not be tolerating is an attack on freedom of speech” – 29th Jan 2021 – YouTube 

[14] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/02/04/need-dissenting-voices-lockdown-debate-ever/

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