The Atlantic, and its media cohorts at the New York Times, have come up with a new suspect for the origins of SARS-CoV-2: Raccoon dogs.
The source of the early reports from an “international team” of virologists is The Atlantic, which lays out from the onset the familiar narrative that the wet market near the Wuhan Institute of Virology must have been the natural source of the novel coronavirus.
“This week, an international team of virologists, genomicists, and evolutionary biologists may have finally found crucial data to help fill that knowledge gap,” the Atlantic claimed. “A new analysis of genetic sequences collected from the market shows that raccoon dogs being illegally sold at the venue could have been carrying and possibly shedding the virus at the end of 2019. It’s some of the strongest support yet, experts told me, that the pandemic began when SARS-CoV-2 hopped from animals into humans, rather than in an accident among scientists experimenting with viruses.”
“This really strengthens the case for a natural origin,” Seema Lakdawala, a virologist at Emory University who was not on the research team, told The Atlantic.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist on the team, added: “This is a really strong indication that animals at the market were infected. There’s really no other explanation that makes any sense.”
This, of course, is not accurate. There are scientific analyses that strongly suggest the SARS-CoV-2 virus was synthesized in a lab. Alex Washburne of Princeton University and his team produced research, informally peer-reviewed by one of the top Covid experts in the world, Francois Balloux, that claims to have isolated the “fingerprint” showing the virus was manufactured in a lab.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic recently held hearings that laid out a specific biological oddity about the SARS-CoV-2 that further points towards unnatural origin.
“The genome of Covid-19 is inconsistent with expectations and is unique for its group of viruses,” said Chair Brad Wenstrup (R-OH). “Covid-19 has both a binding domain optimized for human cells and a furin cleavage site, or a small part of the virus that makes it so infectious that has never been seen before in a SARS-related virus. In other words, Covid-19 has unique characteristics that made it very infectious to humans. These have never been seen before in any other viruses of its type.”
The New York Times, nonetheless, has brushed such potent contradictory scientific research aside and reproduced the new research claiming raccoon dogs are actually to blame.
“In samples that came back positive for the coronavirus, the international research team found genetic material belonging to animals, including large amounts that were a match for the raccoon dog,” the Times reported, citing three of the scientists involved in the analysis.
“The jumbling together of genetic material from the virus and the animal does not prove that a raccoon dog itself was infected,” the Times report added. “And even if a raccoon dog had been infected, it would not be clear that the animal had spread the virus to people. Another animal could have passed the virus to people, or someone infected with the virus could have spread the virus to a raccoon dog.”
Or the animal could have been infected from a virus that had been leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the report fails to note.
“But the analysis did establish that raccoon dogs — fluffy animals that are related to foxes and are known to be able to transmit the coronavirus — deposited genetic signatures in the same place where genetic material from the virus was left,” the report went on. “That evidence, they said, was consistent with a scenario in which the virus had spilled into humans from a wild animal.”
The Times glides by the new intelligence assessment from the U.S. Department of Energy and hearings led by the new Republican House leadership to further suggest that the wild animals may have been the initial sources of SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans.
This is consistent with the typical modus operandi of science reports, such as at the Times, that regurgitate what scientists tell them, even in a highly political context. The Unherd has a worthwhile read on the Times’ track record of steering readers in a politically convenient direction by citing pre-print publications that often have Chinese fingerprints on them.
In March of last year, the Unherd explained that Chinese government scientists had “posted a preprint online that analysed swabs sampled early in the pandemic at a market in Wuhan to detect the Covid-19 virus.”
“The following day, a coterie of Western scientists rushed to publish two preprints of their own, analysing much of the same evidence,” the story notes. “The Chinese preprint concluded that the market was the focus of either the pandemic’s origin or a spreading event where someone outside the market brought it in. Western scientists, however, argued that the same evidence showed the pandemic began in the market from an infected animal.”
“The Western report and its emphasis on an infected animal passing the virus to someone in the market as being the origin of the pandemic became the dominant narrative for New York Times science writers,” the story added. “Their story ran soon after.”
“BREAKING NEWS: Two major scientific studies point to a market in Wuhan, China — not a lab in the same city — as the birthplace of the coronavirus pandemic,” read an early version of a story filed by the Times.
The Times report did not reveal that the “major scientific studies” were preprints that had not been vetted by the broader scientific community.
“When you look at all of the evidence together, it’s an extraordinarily clear picture that the pandemic started at the Huanan market,” the Times quoted Michael Worobey, a co-author of both studies and a researcher at the University of Arizona.
It is a familiar tone that Times readers should recognize. There are scientists who are certain that the coronavirus has natural origins.
This is the “appeal to authority” cue that the Times’ self-imagined elitist readership clings to in order to feel secure in their worldview. It is irrational, unscientific, and tendentious.
If the suspect now is “raccoon dogs,” what happened to the “bat soup” theory? The explanation was floated early in the pandemic, then soon disappeared in the headlines.
The mainstream media was never held to account for this “cover story,” which conveniently let a poorly-run, insecure, and U.S.-funded laboratory doing “gain-of-function” research off the hook.
So, we can expect that a Congressional hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has agreed to testify, will feature one more guest mention: Raccoon dogs. If we know anything about Fauci, he will grab onto any lifeline that the scientific community can produce, to let him and the Communist Chinese off the hook.
Follow Kyle Becker on Twitter @kylenabecker.