by James Billot
Tuesday, 6
December 2022
Spotted
15:11

Why did Slate change its Covid headline?

The article's title was gradually watered down
by James Billot
Slate’s third and final headline

Yesterday morning, Slate published an article by a paediatric doctor about ‘immunity debt’. In the piece, the writer explains how hospitals like his are struggling to deal with an influx of children suffering from respiratory viruses: 

Infants and toddlers, unable to catch their breath from pneumonia or bronchiolitis (an infection of the small airways in the lung), are filling America’s pediatric emergency departments, hospital beds, and intensive care units. Where I work, sick kids have filled our waiting rooms, then filled our makeshift second waiting rooms, and finally filled the emergency medical tents we erected outside.
- Michael Rose, Slate

The language is emphatic, even apocalyptic, with the author warning that ‘the usual winter wave of viruses has become a tsunami’. No wonder, then, that Slate went for a suitably solemn headline:


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Slate’s original headline

But look just below the title and readers are presented with a slightly different picture. Despite the sick children filling up waiting rooms and makeshift emergency tents outside, we are reassured in the article’s standfirst that ‘COVID restrictions were worth it’. The piece itself, however, doesn’t appear to be quite so confident in that assessment. Indeed, if anything, the writer argues the opposite:

While fewer viral infections are good, so is hugging grandma, in-person school, and play dates with friends. Permanently suppressing respiratory viruses is nothing like eliminating foodborne illness, diarrheal disease, or malaria. Pasteurization, sewage systems, water purification, and mosquito control require minimal behavior change and have mostly positive side effects easing uptake, whereas masks are uncomfortable, social distancing is a drag, and wanderlust is widespread. Hope remains for lasting improvements in ventilation, sick-leave policies and culture, and hand hygiene, but it is clear the suite of interventions which were required for sustained community suppression of respiratory viruses has proved both prohibitively painful and politically unpalatable. Respiratory viruses are here to stay.
- Michael Rose, Slate

Further down the piece, there is a tacit acknowledgement that this debt ‘may be worthwhile’ if healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed. But in order to prevent another outbreak of other respiratory viruses, ranging from pneumonia to bronchiolitis, the author also recommends that, going forward, we should employ nonpharmaceutical interventions ‘more strategically’:

Some interventions, such as improved ventilation, might sustainably reduce the total number of infections. Other strategies, like masking, travel restrictions, and social distancing, are, as we’ve seen firsthand, unlikely to last. Using interventions in this second category therefore accrues immunity debt (during a period of wide uptake), which will be painfully paid off with widespread surges (when these measures are inevitably dropped).
- Michael Rose, Slate

All these points seem to build up to a conclusion about the damaging consequences of lockdown. And yet, the author abruptly changes course, ending with a vague conclusion: ‘Our collective efforts to stem the tide of the pandemic saved countless lives; it was ultimately good debt’.

Stranger still is the number of headline iterations the piece went through after publication. In the space of 48 hours, the title evolved from the original (above) to ‘Immunity debt: what is it, and why it was worth it’ before finally landing on ‘immunity debt was worth it’.

The second Slate headline
Slate’s third and final headline

There is nothing wrong with changing a headline after publication so long as it is for accuracy rather than political ends. It is never easy capturing all the nuance of a piece in a single title, but the way in which each one was watered down to fit a more pro-lockdown narrative is striking. By repeating the rote line about the ‘collective effort’ of lockdown and ‘stemming the tide’, it is as if Slate is trying to ward off any hint of scepticism about this apparently good and just cause.

As more reports come out each week about the negative downstream effects of lockdown, it will become increasingly difficult for liberal publications like Slate, who beat the lockdown drum so loudly during the pandemic, to straddle between the two positions. Rather than couching every Covid-related piece in service of lockdown, it would be better off — and much easier — dealing with each story on a case-by-case merit.

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Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

“the author also recommends that, going forward, we should employ nonpharmaceutical interventions ‘more strategically’”
Wasn’t that a conspiracy theory pushed by granny killers who only cared about money?

As for the sub heading, “Yes, America’s children are sicker right now because we had to employ precautions to slow COVID-19. Here’s how to understand it,” I’m getting more than a little sick of these sanctimonious articles telling me how to think. That’s saying nothing of the obvious question begging contained therein.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Like many in the legacy media, truth takes a secondary role to sanctioned narrative at Slate.

All three headlines basically contain the same statement “Immunity debt was worth it.”

This begs the question, worth it for who? I’m from Alberta, the avg age of people who died from Covid was 80. Avg life expectancy here is 79. It was certainly worth it for the elderly and infirm.

Not so much for the young.

The entire Covid response was implemented on the back of young people. The baby boomers did what they thought best to protect themselves, and to hell with anyone else. Young people paid the price and will continue to for years.

What makes it even more infuriating is they could have protected the aged and infirm without sacrificing the young. They chose not to.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I was furious for two plus years because of being constantly reminded how children and young peoples’ well being was being sacrificed for the sake of keeping people my age and older from getting sick. My older friends felt the same way.

Last edited 1 month ago by betsyarehart
Brett H
Brett H
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

Yes, I thought the lockdowns were for reducing the curve to avoid the consequence of hospitals being overwhelmed. It was never about sacrificing the young for the old. In fact for a long time the elderly were terribly neglected and the virus swept through the aged care homes.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Brett H

Agreed, but then it kind of morphed into a paranoid effort to minimise the spread across the whole of society instead of accepting it for certain low risk groups, whilst other more high risk vulnerable groups (which includes me) would take extra precautions and get additional treatments. We’re there now but it took too long.

Brett H
Brett H
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“The baby boomers did what they thought best to protect themselves,”
The baby boomers didn’t make policy.

Chris W
Chris W
1 month ago
Reply to  Brett H

They did vote for the policy makers though (in the UK at least)

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

The policies were decided by people such as Whitty, Valance and communists in SAGE.
NOBODY voted for them.

Brett H
Brett H
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The previous Health Minister is 47. Hardly a baby boomer.

Rick Sareen
Rick Sareen
1 month ago
Reply to  Brett H

I am 67 and completely against lockdowns. We should have followed the GBD or something similar.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

So, the way I see it, Slate is arguing that political interventions like lockdowns and social distancing were necessary to prevent our hospitals and healthcare systems from being overwhelmed, so it was worth it even if that caused a wave of other illnesses that overwhelm our hospitals and healthcare systems. The doublethink here is just staggering. People that will believe such hogwash are basically immune to logic and reason. The explanation for such a nonsensical contradiction is probably executive/editorial meddling. I’m almost surprised they didn’t add an obligatory, ‘there is no evidence of any correlation between COVID vaccines and childhood infections’, you know, just to pre-empt any independent thought on the part of the proles. Give Slate’s record as a reliable parrot for establishment dogma, one wonders how this article got published at all. I wonder if they had a writer go rogue? Perhaps somebody even got fired for this.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Jolly
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

It is astonishing. Echoes of destroying village to save the village.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Though bear in mind they had no idea what they were dealing with, and so took an overly cautious approach because they’d be condemned by society and the media as ‘murderers’ otherwise – as indeed they were.

Melanie Grieveson
Melanie Grieveson
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Not sure why they’d worry about that. Governments, MSM, pharma, CDC, SAGE seem indifferent to public vilification, protest and outcry even when there is rock-solid evidence of their infamy. They pretend it’s not there, ignore it or look the other way; it seems to have worked so far.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago

The killer vaccines, the Crime against Humanity lockdowns, the youth destroying school closures, the wicked termination of Constitutional Rights, the entire MSM, Social Media, and Government advice being 100% Lies, Censoring truth, preventing early treatment which would have prevented 85% of all the deaths from covid, the Religious freedom crushed, the millions going to early death by closing the Hospitals and doctors, the £ and $Trillions created which are giving us this inflation – causing pensions and savings to be destroyed, making mortgages and debt affordable, Starving the Third World, the Recession likely to be a depression, the social distrust, the old and sick dieing alone, the capture of the Government by the Bio-Pharma industry, the vast global corruption it spawned, the Universities and Military mandates forcing the vax and so lifelong health problems on the young

Crime Against Humanity – and Nuremberg Trials must fallow, and this kind of MSM who pushed these horrors should be investigated.

Every one who pushed this should be sued for any damages till they are bankrupted, and Jailed if they did it for any gain.

Informed Consent for this Experimental Gene Therapy was denied, and then mandated illegally – violation of Nuremberg Trial rulings and Human Rights. Time for them to Pay!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Mistakes were made and one hopes lessons will be learned rather than scape goats named, as is the usual practice. But talk about crimes against humanity, Nuremberg Trials is rather over-wrought and not helpful.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

If there is one conclusion I’ve ever drawn into the UK’s national motto, is that lessons are never learned.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

Not so…. Many people who have now been proved right were hounded, discredited, destroyed and vilified for years. Let us have the reckoning to prevent it ever happening again….

Jon Frum
Jon Frum
1 month ago

“Mistakes were made …”
Use of the passive voice is never a good way to start. More people have died of covid worldwide than did during the Holocaust. Over-wroght? Hardly. If covid was created in the Wuhan lab, whatever the reason, Nuremberg style trials are certainly a reasonable outcome.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon Frum

Actually more people died due to German war crimes, which was the actual purpose of Nuremberg, than due to Covid globally.
But you trivialise the Holocaust – it was deliberately engineered mass murder; covid deaths weren’t deliberate murder but circumstances and mistaken policies.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Jeez I think you got downvotes for saying Nuremberg reference is over the top – which it is. But no surprise from some of the bampots on here who decry all politicians as murderers like some rabid villagers armed with pitchforks.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

The response is that the G20 issued a joint statement calling for the censoring of ‘misinformation.’ Canada is passing legislation right now. The only thing they took away is that you need to suppress dissent even more viciously in the future.

Russell David
Russell David
1 month ago

To the Left, lockdown was all their Christmases and birthdays at once. Which tells you how appalling it was.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago

Some interesting information in the quoted article, about increases in respiratory illnesses now (though one wonders if they are worse than they would have been anyway – or just concentrated into a shorter time span). But quite apart from the headline it might be worth remembering that a paediatrician is a specialist in curing sick children. Most of the arguments in the quotes seem to be about mass behaviour, political sustainability, and ‘palatability’, which have little to do with medicine, and where he has no particular authority. Another one using his white coat as an argument for supporting his political views?

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

That watered down conclusion has “Slate editor” written all over it, so to speak.

David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago

Our illiberal elites hate being wrong.

Kerry Davie
Kerry Davie
1 month ago
Reply to  David Harris

You’d think by now they would have got used to it.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 month ago
Reply to  David Harris

They are NEVER wrong – The fault lies with you and me.

Rick Sareen
Rick Sareen
1 month ago
Reply to  David Harris

It is very dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
-Voltaire

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

At least they’re now admitting that immunity debt is a problem. Some of us were saying that since 2020.
Otherwise the headline carries about as much credibility and cognitive dissonance as all those “renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels” headlines while the price of energy keeps going up with every new windfarm.

William Loughran
William Loughran
1 month ago

Brendan O’Leary
Re your point:
‘Otherwise the headline carries about as much credibility and cognitive dissonance as all those “renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels” headlines while the price of energy keeps going up with every new windfarm.’
,,,,,,,,,
If “renewables” were our only source of energy they would not be “renewable”. That is self-sustaining; capable of powering their own replication and fueling our society as well. It takes the abundant, steady energy supply of fossil fuels to make these feel-good supplements viable.

Last edited 1 month ago by William Loughran
Tom Graham
Tom Graham
1 month ago

Analysing an article published by slate is like analysing a dog t**d you found in the park – unpleasant and pointless.

Raymond Prach
Raymond Prach
1 month ago

If we admit that shutdowns and masking had mixed results and some unforeseen consequences, then their side scores a point. Can’t have that.

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
1 month ago
Reply to  Raymond Prach

Raymond, what are you talking about? What you should have said was, “Compulsory shutdowns and masking.” Unforeseen? By whom? Not the millions of dissenters who were vilified and fired from their jobs. You omitted to mention the mandated harm against the entire innocent population when you talk about ‘mixed results’.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
1 month ago

At least the term “immunity debt” is now a permitted concept…

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
1 month ago

Mr. Musk, please buy Slate.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago

The pandemic and the variety of reactions to it from different nations and, here in the US, different States, have set up dozens of opportunities for “natural” experiments. No need to design, fund and execute in the usual way; the data is there for the taking.
But all we seem to be able to do is spin and argue and accuse each other of terrible crimes or rampant stupidity. Will we ever actually know what the “best practices” were? Is anyone even working on this?

Last edited 1 month ago by laurence scaduto