Dear Medium editors,
I am writing to ask that you reinstate, “The Curve is Already Flat” on Medium.com — not because you think the theory is right, but because you think it’s the right thing to do.
It was removed on April 5th and justified on the grounds that it contains, “Health claims or advice which, if acted on, are likely to have detrimental health effects on persons or public safety.”
The premise of the piece is that COVID arrived in the US earlier than indicated by official case documentation. It was a well-reasoned, thoughtful argument that included supporting data and was written in collaboration with a friend and research expert who has a Ph.D., as well as a solid academic publishing reputation.
The scientific community is now coming to a consensus that COVID did, in fact, begin spreading well before we were aware of it — the very idea my paper posits.
I can accept that at the time it was published, the premise was a radical notion with no public support and I choose to believe that Medium, in good faith, believed it did, in fact, pose a risk to public health. After all, if people believed they had COVID already, they may not take the mitigation efforts seriously. Perhaps Medium felt it was their ethical journalistic duty to remove it from the public sphere.
So be it.
I’m not proposing we re-litigate that choice. I’m proposing a new choice: In light of the aforementioned recent revelations in understanding how COVID silently spread across the globe, I ask that you reinstate the piece. It is now more in line with our understanding of what actually happened or, at least, my premise is no longer lacking in scientific corroboration.
I’ve watched Medium edit its approved COVID stories to excise erroneous details, without notation of the change. I hope the same revisionist principle applies to re-allowing stories that have proven to be true (or at least plausible) instead of just removing statements proven to be false.
Here’s why it matters: Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Studies, agrees that there is evidence supporting the theory and that it’s “very important to know.”
I agree with Tom. Our assumptions about IFRs, timelines, and attack rates all affect public policy, which affects people. We need to keep our minds open. Science isn’t about proving ideas right, it’s about disproving null hypotheses.
This is not an attempt at an, “I told you so” or some sort of effort to force Medium to eat their own words. What I proposing is an opportunity to fix a mistake. It’s okay that you thought it was harmful. I don’t begrudge you that. But re-read it. There are no “health claims or advice” like Medium cited as justification for removal. I proposed an avenue of thought. And, as it turns out, a pretty solid one.
If you read my follow up piece commissioned by Colonel Randall Larsen, USAF (Ret.) and National Security Advisor to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, you’ll see that lockdowns do have their own cost, and they’re not solely economic.
It’s becoming too well understood that the price we are about to pay in terms of food insecurity, unemployment, the devastation of small businesses, deaths of despair, rationed healthcare, and educational/developmental interruption is extremely high. Tuberculosis is expected to explode around the globe. Doctors are bracing for an expected 80,000 missed cancer diagnoses in the US alone due to the healthcare system’s singular focus on COVID. Suicides are up, as well as ER visits for domestic violence — to name a few.
My point isn’t to disregard the nuance of the conversation. In fact, it’s the opposite: I propose we need to embrace it. To do so, we cannot be married to any one point of view.
Here’s what we are supposed to do with ideas: let them rise and fall on their merits; not censor ones that run contrary to our opinions. We need to listen and evaluate. We need out-of-the-box thinking and critical inquiry. We need confirmation and dissent of intelligent, thoughtful, innovative people. I am not asking you to platform “misinformation.” I’m asking you to be judicious and fair in your classification as such.
You don’t have to agree with every tenet of my theory to let it stand. But the right thing to do at this point is to let it stand.
So what’s the move? Does Medium entrench and double-down, refusing to acknowledge new information? Or does Medium pivot when presented when the empirical picture changes and hold true to its professed commitment to insatiable curiosity, undiscovered voices, and egalitarian principles (and, in the process, earn back the trust of a lot of alienated readers)?
As Albert Camus said, “The only way to fight the plague is with decency.”
Thank you for your time,
ETA 5/24/20: USA Today published this article yesterday which agrees with both the idea I posited and the conclusion.
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I also received this prescient email from Ev Williams today, as a Medium subscriber, espousing the values of Medium.
This is Ev Williams, CEO of Medium. I’m writing to thank you for becoming a Medium member. You may have not known exactly what to expect when you subscribed. Perhaps you read something you liked (or were unable to read something because of our paywall) so you decided to give it a try.
I’d like to give you a clearer sense of what we’re trying to do, why we think it matters, and how to get more out of it.
Over 20,000 times today, someone will publish on Medium to share a story, an idea, or a perspective with the world. Some of those will be professional writers we’ve paid. Others will be experts publishing of their own accord. Most will be people you and I have never heard of. Each one has a chance to influence others, plant a seed, perhaps even start a movement.
We do our best to help these stories find the audience they deserve, using a large team of people that includes human curators, editors, and software engineers. As a result, over 120 million people read on Medium every month. Our hope is that they understand the world more deeply by doing so and find ideas that can help them in their daily lives.
This is why Medium exists: To deepen understanding of the world and spread ideas that matter.
We pursue this with humility, because it is a job that will never end. But we also recognize the information we pay attention to plays a huge part in shaping how we think. It can divide us or empower us. It can lead to insight or spark anxiety.
There is a need today to rethink the systems that dominate our information landscape — and, therefore, our attention. Do they create more clarity or confusion? Do they mislead more than they inform? And do they serve the people or the advertisers that fund them?
Medium is creating not just technology, and not just content, but a new information ecosystem — one that is open for everyone to participate in, but without submitting to the lowest-common denominator. One that rewards quality over quantity. One that supports nuance, complexity, and substantive storytelling that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.
We have come a long way on this journey, but we are just getting started. As a paying member, you are critical to our mission. At any time, feel free to reply to this email to share your thoughts, and know that we’ll read each piece of feedback you send.
Thank you for reading,