Andrew Bridgen's false claims about vaccines and Covid on GB News
Andrew Bridgen debated Fraser Myers on Andrew Doyle's Free Speech Nation
Fraser Myers is the deputy editor of Spiked Online. He recently kicked the hornets nest of internet anti-vax lunacy when he wrote an article headlined ‘The delusions of Andrew Bridgen’.
Bridgen is a Conservative MP who was recently expelled from the party after falling down a vaccine conspiracy rabbit hole which culminated in him sharing holocaust comparisons about covid vaccines via his social media.
Andrew Doyle invited them both to argue it out on his GB News show Free Speech Nation.
You can watch the debate in full below:
I thought it would be useful to fact check the central points made by Andrew Bridgen during this debate, as they appear to riff on the greatest hits of Covid vaccine falsehoods.
Vaccines are the cause of the majority of excess deaths in the UK
This claim is made considerably more deranged by the use of the word ‘majority’. I can’t for the life of me understand why Bridgen needs to take this point far beyond the realm of conceivable reality. Back on planet earth, we know that excess deaths would actually be considerably higher without the vaccine rollout. According to the data, the vaccine has been linked to a dozen or so deaths in the UK. 151 million doses of the vaccine have been given.
Appeal to the Yellow Card reporting system for claims about vaccine harms
The Yellow Card reporting system in the UK is a valuable platform for self-reporting any adverse effects experienced after vaccination. The USA equivalent is VAERS. However, given the anecdotal nature of the reports submitted to the Yellow Card system, just rattling off Yellow Card numbers in isolation does not provide an accurate picture of reality. Firstly, no small number of reports submitted to Yellow Card simply record instances of nausea, dizziness, sore arms etc.,—which are common, non-long term side effects of the vaccine.
Secondly, The Yellow Card system is simply a tool for documenting correlation (once you remove the outright false reports) rather than causation. You can read a more detailed breakdown of this here. Causal links must be established before making definitive claims about these reports.
Describing the vaccines as ‘experimental’ and never having completed clinical trials
I really don’t understand why anti-vaxxers persist with this one. I suppose calling the vaccines ‘experimental’ makes them sound scarier, but the truth of the matter is that the vaccines completed all 3 phases of clinical trials in full before being rolled out.
In the rare instance that anti-vaxxers actually accept this fact, they will often pivot to claims that the trials were ‘rushed’. Which is also a lie. Trials are either completed in full, or they are not—regardless of how long this takes.
Yes, these vaccines were rolled out in a remarkably impressive short amount of time, but that is the consequence of having global resources, finances and unlimited manpower at your disposal during a pandemic emergency. This is not the usual level of support and co-operation for standardised medicine. Look at it like this: it may take you a month to decorate your house on your own. However, a whole team of decorators with advanced tools at their disposal may take a couple of days to decorate your house. Has the decorating now been ‘rushed’ and thus completed to a lower standard? Obviously not.
Anti-vaxxers will often latch on to the fact vaccines are still in phase IV of clinical trials. What they won’t tell you is that this is the standard ‘monitoring’ phase of clinical trials and can only be started once a vaccine has completed all the necessary aspects of clinical trials that are required for rollout.
The vaccines are gene therapy
Another completely false statement designed to make the vaccines sound sinister—the implication being that the the vaccines have the ability to alter a person’s DNA. The MRNA vaccines are designed to create an immune response. They do not alter the DNA. They do not even enter the cell’s nucleus where DNA is located. Bridgen’s insistence on lying about this particular point has been addressed here already.
Bridgen’s Dec 2022 speech in parliament referencing “32 scientific papers”—”they couldn’t take it apart, the science was inarguable”.
The Skeptic magazine have done a comprehensive breakdown of the claims Bridgen made in parliament and the studies he has completely misrepresented.
Linking the virus spike protein to HIV.
This claim is made to bolster the argument that the virus was engineered rather than naturally occurring. This particular point appears to stem from claims made by Luc Montagnier. A claim which is inaccurate, unsurprisingly.
Amino acids matching a patent the American government gave to Moderna.
This is the first time I’ve actually heard this one. And it seems to have originated from a misrepresentation of a single study.
The USA’s Department of Defence funded and intentionally engineered the virus.
This is perhaps the most useful claim from Bridgen, as it demonstrates just how much he is willing to believe on such little evidence.
In the above tweet, Bridgen claims that the US Department of Defense were ‘responsible for both the virus and vaccines’ and that Bridgen expects to see the start of ‘criminal proceedings against many politicians and officials’ by ‘the end of the month’.
Let’s get the easy point out of the way about this being tweeted at the start of March and the fact that we are now in May, sans criminal proceedings. What evidence does Bridgen have to make such an extraordinary public claim? A claim, that were it true would surely have huge, global ramifications?
As he puts it on GB News when asked: “I travelled out under my own powers at Christmas and New Year, spent the whole time in Washington speaking to scientists and elected representatives over there and they confirmed everything about that”.
So, some unidentified people said these things to Bridgen whilst he was on holiday in America. That’s it. That’s the totality of evidence required for him to make history defining claims of this magnitude, publicly.
My own thoughts in conclusion
I’m somewhat conflicted about the utility of debating conspiracy theories and false claims about vaccines on sizable platforms. My default, current position is that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’, and publicly challenging these ideas is a worthy endeavour for the public good. As Fraser put it at the end of the debate, “I’m happy for Andrew to discredit himself live, by saying all this rubbish”.
However, I cannot deny that by platforming these ideas also invertedly spreads them and lends credibility. Not to mention many will believe Bridgen was actually making perfect sense here. And that’s a consequence of how conspiratorial claims and half truths can sound convincing. It’s in their construction.
A feature technique of conspiracy and falsehood peddling is known as “gish gallop”, which involves rattling off multiple points, machine gun style, in a short space of time. This is exemplified in the way Bridgen bounces around from vaccine safety, HIV links, engineered viruses, “32 studies”, Fauci, gene therapy, the American DOD and much more in such a short space of time. Either one of these claims could take hours to fully deconstruct in a live debate.
It takes but a moment to make a false claim or misrepresent a study—yet as you can see by the fact checks I have included above—it takes considerably more time and effort to rebut them. Or, as Brandolini put it, the effort needed “…to refute bullshit is often of an order of magnitude greater than what is required to produce the bullshit in the first place”.
Although I think Fraser did well in challenging Bridgen, is it really reasonable to have expected Fraser to have the totality of information above, in his head, ready to go? Not that he would have had the time to speak it if he did.
Anyhow, the above false claims and credulity should be enough to show how Bridgen thinks, regardless of what he thinks—and it is clear that Bridgen should never be considered a valuable source of information on anything vaccine related.