Facebook no longer censoring talk of lab origin for COVID

(AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

It’s amazing how fast a topic can go from the realm of forbidden speech and conspiracy theories to a valid subject of investigation, isn’t it? Ever since the world began searching for answers as to how the novel coronavirus broke out into the human population, the American media and global medical authorities such as the World Health Organization shunned the idea that the plague could have come from a Chinese virology laboratory, such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The subject was described as a racist conspiracy to discredit the Chinese people or whatever the talking point of the day was. Now, in just a matter of weeks, we’ve reached the point where President Joe Biden is calling for a full investigation into the origins of the virus in the next three months. Matt Yglesias published a timeline of how the press dropped the ball on the story, in some cases doing so intentionally and with obvious malice. Up until now, the social media giants have been treating any suggestion of a laboratory origin for COVID the same as the use of the n-word. But as of yesterday, that’s changed too. Facebook told Politico that it will no longer be taking down posts exploring the possibility or banning users who bring up the topic.

Facebook will no longer take down posts claiming that Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a company spokesperson told POLITICO on Wednesday, a move that acknowledges the renewed debate about the virus’ origins.

A narrative in flux: Facebook’s policy tweak arrives as support surges in Washington for a fuller investigation into the origins of Covid-19 after the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus. The findings have reinvigorated the debate about the so-called Wuhan lab-leak theory, once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he has ordered the intelligence community to “redouble” its efforts to find out the virus’ origin and report back in 90 days.

The WHO has been bending over backward to provide cover for China (as the United Nations always seems to do) and they have largely remained silent about China’s lack of cooperation into investigations taking place on the ground in and around Wuhan. But some of the researchers looking into the subject have managed to make some progress by talking to doctors in local hospitals and even some of the original people who were exposed. The preferred theory from China (aside from claiming that the United States cooked up the virus in Maryland) is that the virus erupted in a “wet market” in Wuhan. But as Yglesias pointed out, of the original 40 cases, 14 of them had not been in contact with the meat market, including Patient Zero.

That doesn’t prove that the virus came out of the level 3 virology laboratory, but it certainly seems to eliminate one of the prime alternate suspects. Given China’s long history of denying any wrongdoing and pointing fingers at everyone else, we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly come out with an apology and a statement beginning with “Our bad…” But as it goes with any crime scene investigation, a confession is not required to prove guilt.

This is a prime example of how narrative building has infected the media and the damage it can do. Having a plague like this crop up in the immediate vicinity of two Chinese laboratories working in virus research was an obvious red flag from day one, or at least it should have been. China also has an established history of having worked on biological weapons.

Despite all of that, it somehow became established doctrine on the left last year that China must be innocent of any wrongdoing or error and this was all just some horrible twist of fate generated by mother nature. It would be bad enough if that was simply declared the favored theory while the investigation continued, but as is so often the case in the 21st century, the suggestion of a laboratory origin of the virus became forbidden speech. Anyone even wishing to discuss the possibility was silenced in as much as was possible. Posts were deleted, accounts were suspended and the talking heads at CNN and MSNBC labeled anyone suggesting the idea as a conspiracy theorist.

Now Facebook has reluctantly backed down, though we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for any apologies. Will the hosts of New Day on CNN be changing their tune as well? Or will they label President Biden as a conspiracy theorist? I’m not expecting either to happen, honestly.