By Wolfgang Preiser et. al.
Since early in the COVID pandemic, the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa has been monitoring changes in SARS-CoV-2. This was a valuable tool to understand better how the virus spread. In late 2020, the network detected a new virus lineage, 501Y.V2, which later became known as the beta variant. Now a new SARS-CoV-2 variant has been identified – B.1.1.529. The World Health Organisation has declared it a variant of concern, and assigned it the name Omicron. To help us understand more, The Conversation Africa’s Ozayr Patel asked scientists to share what they know.
What’s the science behind the search?
Hunting for variants requires a concerted effort. South Africa and the UK were the first big countries to implement nationwide genomic surveillance efforts for SARS-CoV-2 as early as April 2020.
Variant hunting, as exciting as that sounds, is performed through whole genome sequencing of samples that have tested positive for the virus. This process involves checking every sequence obtained for differences compared to what we know is circulating in South Africa and the world. When we see multiple differences, this immediately raises a red flag and we investigate further to confirm what we’ve noticed.
Fortunately South Africa is well set up for this. This is thanks to a central repository of public sector laboratory results at the National Health Laboratory Service, (NGS-SA), good linkages to private laboratories, the Provincial Health Data Centre of the Western Cape Province, and state-of-the-art modelling expertise.
In addition, South Africa has several laboratories that can grow and study the actual virus and discover how far antibodies, formed in response to vaccination or previous infection, are able to neutralise the new virus. This data will allow us to characterise the new virus.
The beta variant spread much more efficiently between people compared to the “wild type” or “ancestral” SARS-CoV-2 and caused South Africa’s second pandemic wave. It was therefore classified as a variant of concern. During 2021, yet another variant of concern called delta spread over much of the world, including South Africa, where it caused a third pandemic wave.
Very recently, routine sequencing by Network for Genomics Surveillance member laboratories detected a new virus lineage, called B.1.1.529, in South Africa. Seventy-seven samples collected in mid-November 2021 in Gauteng province had this virus. It has also been reported in small numbers from neighbouring Botswana and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong case is reportedly a traveller from South Africa.
The World Health Organisation has given B.1.1.529 the name Omicron and classified it as a variant of concern, like beta and delta.
Why is South Africa presenting variants of concern?
We do not know for sure. It certainly seems to be more than just the result of concerted efforts to monitor the circulating virus. One theory is that people with highly compromised immune systems, and who experience prolonged active infection because they cannot clear the virus, may be the source of new viral variants.
The assumption is that some degree of “immune pressure” (which means an immune response which is not strong enough to eliminate the virus yet exerts some degree of selective pressure which “forces” the virus to evolve) creates the conditions for new variants to emerge.
Despite an advanced antiretroviral treatment programme for people living with HIV, numerous individuals in South Africa have advanced HIV disease and are not on effective treatment. Several clinical cases have been investigated that support this hypothesis, but much remains to be learnt.
Why is this variant worrying?
The short answer is, we don’t know. The long answer is, B.1.1.529 carries certain mutations that are concerning. They have not been observed in this combination before, and the spike protein alone has over 30 mutations. This is important, because the spike protein is what makes up most of the vaccines.
We can also say that B.1.1.529 has a genetic profile very different from other circulating variants of interest and concern. It does not seem to be a “daughter of delta” or “grandson of beta” but rather represents a new lineage of SARS-CoV-2.
Some of its genetic changes are known from other variants and we know they can affect transmissibility or allow immune evasion, but many are new and have not been studied as yet. While we can make some predictions, we are still studying how far the mutations will influence its behaviour.
We want to know about transmissibility, disease severity, and ability of the virus to “escape” the immune response in vaccinated or recovered people. We are studying this in two ways.
Firstly, careful epidemiological studies seek to find out whether the new lineage shows changes in transmissibility, ability to infect vaccinated or previously infected individuals, and so on.
At the same time, laboratory studies examine the properties of the virus. Its viral growth characteristics are compared with those of other virus variants and it is determined how well the virus can be neutralised by antibodies found in the blood of vaccinated or recovered individuals.
In the end, the full significance of the genetic changes observed in B.1.1.529 will become apparent when the results from all these different types of studies are considered. It is a complex, demanding and expensive undertaking, which will carry on for months, but indispensable to understand the virus better and devise the best strategies to combat it.
Do early indications point to this variant causing different symptoms or more severe disease?
There is no evidence for any clinical differences yet. What is known is that cases of B.1.1.529 infection have increased rapidly in Gauteng, where the country’s fourth pandemic wave seems to be commencing. This suggests easy transmissibility, albeit on a background of much relaxed non-pharmaceutical interventions and low number of cases. So we cannot really tell yet whether B.1.1.529 is transmitted more efficiently than the previously prevailing variant of concern, delta.
COVID-19 is more likely to manifest as severe, often life-threatening disease in the elderly and chronically ill individuals. But the population groups often most exposed first to a new virus are younger, mobile and usually healthy people. If B.1.1.529 spreads further, it will take a while before its effects, in terms of disease severity, can be assessed.
Fortunately, it seems that all diagnostic tests that have been checked so far are able to identify the new virus.
Even better, it appears that some widely used commercial assays show a specific pattern: two of the three target genome sequences are positive but the third one is not. It’s like the new variant consistently ticks two out of three boxes in the existing test. This may serve as a marker for B.1.1.529, meaning we can quickly estimate the proportion of positive cases due to B.1.1.529 infection per day and per area. This is very useful for monitoring the virus’s spread almost in real time.
Are current vaccines likely to protect against the new variant?
Again, we do not know. The known cases include individuals who had been vaccinated. However we have learnt that the immune protection provided by vaccination wanes over time and does not protect as much against infection but rather against severe disease and death. One of the epidemiological analyses that have commenced is looking at how many vaccinated people become infected with B.1.1.529.
The possibility that B.1.1.529 may evade the immune response is disconcerting. The hopeful expectation is that the high seroprevalence rates, people who’ve been infected already, found by several studies would provide a degree of “natural immunity” for at least a period of time.
Ultimately, everything known about B.1.1.529 so far highlights that universal vaccination is still our best bet against severe COVID-19 and, together with non-pharmaceutical interventions, will go a long way towards helping the healthcare system cope during the coming wave.
This article was updated following the World Health Organisation’s announcement on the new variant. Wolfgang Preiser heads the Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University. Cathrine Scheepers is a Senior Medical Scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand. Jinal Bhiman is Principal Medical Scientist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa. Marietjie Venter heads the Zoonotic, Arbo and Respiratory Virus Programme and is a Professor at the Department Medical Virology, University of Pretoria. Tulio de Oliveira is the director of KRISP – KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Conversation arose out of deep-seated concerns for the fading quality of our public discourse and recognition of the vital role that academic experts could play in the public arena. Information has always been essential to democracy. It’s a societal good, like clean water. But many now find it difficult to put their trust in the media and experts who have spent years researching a topic. Instead, they listen to those who have the loudest voices. Those uninformed views are amplified by social media networks that reward those who spark outrage instead of insight or thoughtful discussion. The Conversation seeks to be part of the solution to this problem, to raise up the voices of true experts and to make their knowledge available to everyone. The Conversation publishes nightly at 9 p.m. on FlaglerLive.
David Schaefer says
OMG!!!! When will this crap end……
Ray W. says
The belief remains in the scientific community that if enough people accept the jab, described in the article as a “universal” vaccination rate, then it remains possible that SARS-Cov-2, in all its variant forms, can be eliminated as a viral disease, like so many other viral diseases have been eliminated by other vaccines. But only if the viral disease remains defined as a pandemic disease, and not redefined as an endemic viral disease. So long as statistically significant segments of the population decline to accept the jab, ever more variants will emerge. Some variants will have an impact for a short time and disappear. Others, like the delta variant, will sweep across the globe. As the doctors explain to the author, they do not yet possess the data on which they can base a prediction of just how widespread the omicron variant will turn out to be.
Once again, the best thing our various and numerous Republican politicians can decide to do is one simple thing each day. They can take the necessary five or so seconds each day to say: “Please go to your pharmacist and ask to receive the free jab.” It is easy for them to say and it might persuade millions of Americans to receive the jab. Republican politicians need to stop leading from behind. They could even borrow the old language from law enforcement circles, to-wit: Be proactive, not reactive.
If SARS-Cov-2 ever becomes defined as an endemic viral disease, David Schaefer, the answer to your question is: Never! Variants will continue to emerge, some of which will likely defeat whatever vaccines that are developed and released, but only because new vaccines will only have the capacity to minimize the impact of the new variants, not eliminate the spread. Our ever-fading immunities, natural or induced by vaccines, will not be enough to defeat the onset of each new variant of the disease. Some who easily survive their first bout of SARS-Cov-2 will not survive their second or third bout. Wave after wave, the variant viruses will sweep across the globe, just as wave after wave of the many variants of the four strains of the flu sweeps across the globe. And the callous among us will be proved correct in their self-fulfilling proclamations that SARS-Cov-2 is analogous to the flu and that we just have to accept the deaths that come from both diseases.
As I have commented many times before, Hillary Clinton erred when she described a small block of Trump supporters as “deplorable.” They are not deplorable. They are uneducable to all persuasive attempts except those from their leaders. And their leaders decline for whatever reason to ask the otherwise uneducable to accept the jab. When the uneducable form credulity for only recalcitrant Republican politicians, they will forever be uneducable.
Bill C says
I agree with you but for one thing: please stop calling it “the jab”. That has negative and painful associations (like getting jabbed with a knife) which may deter some from getting vaccinated. Protect yourself from Covid and get vaccinated- it is quick and you barely feel it, if at all.
Ray W. says
Good comment. Thank you. I borrowed the English slang term that has been around long before the current pandemic.
They even color coded the variants to look like a scoop of every flavor of ice cream with toppings at Cold Stone Creamery.
Ray W. says
In court, the depiction of the different variants of Sars-COV-2 would be called a demonstrative aid, which may be useful in an attorney’s effort to assist in the education of the educable juror. No amount of clarifying information is sufficient to assist in the education of the uneducable. In the automotive and motorcycle parts world, it would be called a parts diagram. In chemistry, the framework of a molecule can be depicted by use of a variety of different sized spheres of varying colors, each representing different atoms, that are connected by rods. I suppose it is still a normal part of a school-aged child’s education. I recall my childhood classrooms having wall-mounted spring-loaded maps depicting the nations of the day in different colors. Then, of course, there is always the game of Risk.
Unless you used the depictions to further educate yourself, the better description of your comment is: Nice try, Jimbo99, but you lose this one. It is difficult for you to successfully make a point when you start with a losing one. The depictions are nothing more than a common approach adopted by professors as teaching aids.
I think they’re missing out on an excellent opportunity sell these to children for this Retail Christmas season. Every new variant could add to the collection, like Mr/Mrs Potato Head toys. Whether they use them or not, still doesn’t change the fact that they’re chasing the next variant with vaccine booster and outright new vaccines that really haven’t been effective. Recently, the death toll for 2021 (with 3 vaccines) finally surpassed 2020 (without any vaccines). So Biden-Harris lied during the election year in September 2020, when he said he was going to get Covid under control ? Don’t even get me started on continuing to overpay Fauci for poor results.
Ray W. . . thank you again for your excellent comments.
Unfortunately, there are many highly educated people who have become what I perceive as being “brainwashed”. Consider the possibility that although their educated intellect strongly suggests they completely reject non-factual tripe such as conspiracy theories, they allow their overriding emotional negative impulses to direct their unhealthy way of being in the world.
That passionate fear and hate filled emotional (non-thinking) reaction can express itself in a myriad of ways. . . from the self centered negligence of refusing to wear a mask/get vaccinated to the extreme of something akin to radicalization. Actions from extremists can manifest violent atrocities such as “vigilante” killings and “insurrections”.
The refusal/inability to be educated is one thing. . . the deliberate subjugation of the intellect is quite another matter.
Ray W. says
Hello Sherry. “[T]he deliberate subjugation of the intellect …” is a great observation. Thank you.
During my 30+ years of representing individuals, I tried to present their voices in the courtroom, not mine. I took the position that procedural due process, defined as notice and a right to be heard, required me to be a chameleon in the courtroom, so as to adopt my client’s voice as my own. Many times, I would have argued something different, but my job was to present my client’s voice to a judge or jury, not my own. In that way, I intentionally subjugated my beliefs in favor of promoting my client’s story. I did not look at it as “… the deliberate subjugation of the intellect”, but I accept that it could be interpreted that way. Taken in that light, your wording provides a possible explanation of why our s0-called conservative politicians are intentionally subjugating their intellect in order to gain or retain political power, to obtain ever larger quantities of financial resources, and to satisfy the widespread human need for validation. Of course, there is the possibility that so-called conservative politicians are oppositional-defiant, but that takes away the aspect of intentionality.
I’m vaccinated, then again no Covid without or with a vaccine and I just don’t see me getting it. Vaccinated because I knew Biden’s playbook before he actually tried to implement it. He’s that transparent in his motives. Biden-Harris attacked Trump-Pence on the vaccines & not caring about Americans politically in the coup of 2020. And when Operation Warp Speed succeeded in spite of that effort to win the White House & Congress. So much they were relatively 1st in line to get the vaccines as essentials, after Harris proclaimed she would not take a Trump vaccine. Why did it take so long to get an Age 5-12 vaccine in 2021 ? I mean, the the experts tell us there is no way you can get Covid from the vaccine ? They’ve been vaccinating children, puppies & kittens for everything since weeks old since I was getting vaccines at school in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s.
If they were to break down the death counts by variant, their stats have less impact than lumping everything into Covid as a total death toll. So they enable, politicize & weaponize their death tolls in that manner. I really think they have enough deaths from any given variant that even lumping 2020 & 2021 stats is further evidence of that. When they created the Covid ICD-10-CM in 2015, they had to have known about it for far longer than they’re letting on ? Isn’t it strange how the experts can’t have a vaccine until it became a pandemic, yet they knew when it would become a critical mass in 2020, they had it isolated in labs, were involved in “gain of function”studies ? Isn’t that the better opportunity & time to have developed more reliable test kits as well as a vaccine ? Everything that was rolled out, the internet reporting, the vaccines of 2020, should have been done going back a decade at least, even to the 2002/2003 SARS-COVID-1 outbreak ? There’s simply way too much money involved for that to be a coincidence ? And yet the stats really indicate that the vaccines are ineffective & that they left a backdoor wide open with no vaccines for children 12 & under. By not closing the possibility of children to become carriers, asymptomatic or visibly ill, what’s up with that ? I thought children, women & elderly were the most precious of the protected on the endangered species list of humans, amongst other Special Interest Groups that felt compelled to protest, even riot & loot throughout the summer of 2020 ? Yet the experts chose not to fortify that flank and it became their Achilles heel/Trojan Horse with the Delta variants. All they needed was a children’s dosage of the vaccine really ? That really shows a lack of leadership to take on that level of interest & concern by the “wokest” of us all ?
And don’t get me started with Congress trying to sandbag OWS as not diverse enough ? Every vaccine developer contracts with the Federal Government thru Medicare at the very least, OWS was diverse simply because you really can’t contract with the Federal Government at the size of those organizations without being diverse. Trump-Pence beat Fauci’s pessimistic predictions of a vaccine in 2020 by at least a year. Imagine how bad it would be with Biden-Harris if they didn’t inherit 3 vaccines ?
Ray W. says
Is your entire set of posts on this subject matter based on conspiracy theories?
I posted the other day a quick check of CDC data about which version of SARS-Cov-2 was currently being transmitted in this country. Over 99% of current cases were caused by the delta variant. I was cautious in concluding that the Wuhan original version of SARS-Cov-2 had entirely disappeared, but if over 99% of the current cases presenting to doctors are delta-based, it does seem possible that the Wuhan version is very close to disappearing in America. It appears possible to conclude that widespread use of vaccines, plus natural immunity among those unvaccinated people who contracted and survived SARS-Cov-2, have worked against the Wuhan version, though I invite anyone to disprove my limited and possible conclusion. As a layperson in the field on infectious diseases, I accept that anything I post on this subject matter can be wrong. Will Jimbo99 accept the same underlying premise? Can he accept that he might be wrong in his comments or is he married to his beliefs?
The scientific method relies on data that can only be gathered over time and then studiously examined in order to reduce any possible erroneous conclusions that can be drawn too quickly from then-limited data. As more data is gathered, better conclusions can be drawn and supported. In this way, Dr. Fauci, by definition, must change his comments to reflect the emerging data. In this way, Dr. Fauci, from the very beginning, knew he would be repeatedly attacked by conspiracy theorists. He learned of this method of attack from HIV-AIDS proponents who wanted a cure right away, even though Dr. Fauci knew that advances in treatments for HIV-AIDS were years and perhaps decades away.
If the original coronavirus studies focused on the largest number of people who were presenting to doctors with symptoms of the viral disease, then those studies would have to be based on older adults who had comorbidities, not infants, who are far less susceptible to present to doctors with symptoms of the viral disease. The CDC cannot approve use of a vaccine to a class of people, e.g., infants, without sufficient data collected from that particular group and studiously examined, due to long-established rules based on decades of scientific study.
While the CDC follows rules established over decades of scientific study, Jimbo99 follows conspiracy theories based on flawed reasoning. Because Jimbo99 has formed credulity for those who foster conspiracy theories, he can be misled by those very people, who have become the only people who can have credibility in his worldview. In other words, it appears that Jimbo99 has joined the class of the uneducable on this subject matter. Every new conspiracy theory will bolster his beliefs. Every new scientifically based finding will be rejected by all who share Jimbo 99’s worldview.
All of Dr. Fauci’s explanations are supposed to be subjected to skeptical review by other experts. We call it peer review and it is part and parcel of the scientific method. Conspiracy theorists are not peers of Dr. Fauci. Their form of skepticism is not part of the scientific method. Jimbo99 is following the model set by cigarette companies in their long fight against those who sought regulation of cigarettes based on medical science. Jimbo99 is not following the model set by the many scientists who engaged in the long process of establishing through use of scientifically based intellectual rigor that cigarettes are harmful to our health.
Should anyone form credulity for Jimbo99 on this particular subject matter?
Ray W. says
Jimbo99, have you considered the possibility that our liberal democratic Constitutional republican was designed from the very beginning with checks and balances built into every power delegated to judges, officials, and representatives of the three branches of our government? Were checks and balances designed to inhibit the impulses of the hotheads among us? If this is so, is it correct to conclude that our founding fathers hoped to curb the violence impulses and social injustices that can be promoted by the hotheads among us? Were our founding fathers hopeful that our liberal democratic Constitutional republic would foster the virtuous among us to lead, but also fearful of mob rule by the hotheads among us? In Congress supposed to slowly react to emerging trends? Is this slow reaction to emerging trends fertile ground for conspiracy theorists?
I can never imagine “your” intellect being subjugated. Professionally used to your client’s best benefit. . . Yes. . . completely subjugated. . . No.
Certainly, I echo your point about despicable politicians who know full well that they are lying to their constituents in order to bolster their own corrupt power within that alternate reality. Have morally bankrupt Republican politicians cleverly tapped into a cache of the inherently weak minded? Is that how it began. . . with those who are so easily “emotionally” misguided into that cult mentality that is so dangerously prevalent these days? Brains = Wash, Rinse , Repeat! In any case, the battle plan of bombastic noise, noise, noise of the bullying far Right is to create twisted inroads and cracks in our “factual” reality.
It is my personal belief, that the beginnings of the shift away from the intellect and towards an alternate reality started over 20 years ago with “far right” Rupert Murdoch and his massive media empire, especially FOX in the US. A good read from 2004:
Ray W. says
Over a month ago, the New York Times published an article about an age of political violence in America that occurred late in the 19th Century. The author’s premise was that political violence reached its peak some 40 years after the end of the Civil War. The author pointed out that during those 40 years three presidents were assassinated, that a member of Congress was murdered, on average, every seven years, that families actually split over political disputes, that elections were hotly discussed and disputed, and that compromises had to be reached between the parties (as an example, President Hayes was deemed the 1876 election winner after a behind the scenes agreement to withdraw Union soldiers from the South settled an electoral college dispute involving four states. Tilden was one vote shy of the necessary 185 electoral college votes, but there were disputed electors from those four states. Tilden lost the presidency). Eventually, according to the author, it became taboo to discuss politics at the table. While I find the author’s premise persuasive, indeed perhaps compelling, I have long taken the view that a world-wide disruptive political movement, as depicted in Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower, reflected an anti-governmental element that spanned from about 1880 to about 1915, when World War I put an end to the bombings, assassinations, and rioting throughout Europe and the United States. I think the Times author’s decision to focus solely on political violence in the United States was too narrow a focus.
I find your point about Murdoch’s media empire intriguing, though I suspect it is in mankind’s political nature to periodically engage in a long-term spasm of violence and that Murdoch is simply enabling what is already there. We are seeing a wave of totalitarian movements across the developed and developing world, in places such as Brazil, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Turkey, and the United States. Other movements exist in Great Britain, France, Germany, and others. Many of these movements are fostered by Russia, which provides financing to totalitarian politicians. This is why I continually post comments about Putin’s comment to a reporter that in his opinion liberalism has become “obsolete.”
Putin might be right.
Hello Ray W.,
Thanks so much for your interesting observations from a much, much larger context.
Regarding the massive influence of FOX (not news). . . this article from MotherJones has a powerful analysis of the origins of the current “fear and hate” society”. . . it’s quite the long analysis, but well worth the read:
Here are just a couple of excerpts:
When did this all start? Here are a few data points to consider. From 1994 to 2000, according to the Pew Research Center, only 16 percent of Democrats held a “very unfavorable” view of Republicans, but then these feelings started to climb. Between 2000 and 2014 it rose to 38 percent and by 2021 it was about 52 percent. And the same is true in reverse for Republicans: The share who intensely dislike Democrats went from 17 percent to 43 percent to about 52 percent.
In a more recent study, researchers provided evidence for something we all knew intuitively: Social media users are mostly locked inside “bubbles” of like-minded partisans. And there’s evidence—from Facebook itself—that the company’s various algorithms push people further into bubbles.
When it debuted in 1996, Fox News was an afterthought in Republican politics. But after switching to a more hardline conservatism in the late ’90s it quickly attracted viewership from more than a third of all Republicans by the early 2000s. And as anyone who’s watched Fox knows, its fundamental message is rage at what liberals are doing to our country. Over the years the specific message has changed with the times—from terrorism to open borders to Benghazi to Christian cake bakers to critical race theory—but it’s always about what liberal politicians are doing to cripple America, usually with a large dose of thinly veiled racism to give it emotional heft. If you listen to this on a daily basis, is it any wonder that your trust in government would plummet? And on the flip side, if you’re a progressive watching what conservatives are doing in response to Fox News, is it any wonder that your trust in government might plummet as well?
Fox News isn’t the only source of conservative animus toward government. The conservative media ecosystem includes talk radio, websites, email newsletters, and so forth. But all of these outlets had only a temporary effect in the early ’90s before fading out in the face of a booming economy. Only Fox News has had an enduring impact.
And that effect is huge since rage toward Democrats means more votes for Republicans. As far back as 2007 researchers learned that the mere presence of Fox News on a cable system increased Republican vote share by nearly 1 percent. A more recent study estimates that a minuscule 150 seconds per week of watching Fox News can increase the Republican vote share. In a study of real-life impact, researchers found that this means the mere existence of Fox News on a cable system induced somewhere between 3 and 8 percent of non-Republicans to vote for the Republican Party in the 2000 presidential election. A more recent study estimates that Fox News produced a Republican increase of 3.59 points in the 2004 share of the two-party presidential vote and 6.34 points in 2008. That’s impact.
Finally, Fox News also has an effect on what the mainstream news media reports, helping to spread conservative arguments far and wide. Remember the IRS “targeting” scandal of 2013? It was a routine news story until Fox News made it a cause celebre. Then it started to dominate the airwaves. More recently, critical race theory was an academic obscurity until Fox suddenly decided to give it the treatment earlier this year. Now you can hardly click your mouse without coming across yet another article or op-ed about it.
Why is Fox News so influential? Part of the answer probably lies in the fact that Fox News is cloaked in the trappings of news. Most conservatives who listen to talk radio shows understand that radio talkers are explicitly offering opinions and doing it with a large element of showmanship. But Fox News has well-dressed anchors and all the other accoutrements of a normal news outlet. So it’s no surprise that 65 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they trust Fox News—far more than any other news outlet. After all, why would a news outlet lie?
Even the distinction between the afternoon news shows and the primetime opinion shows—a favorite defense of Fox apologists—probably goes unnoticed by many viewers. At 6 p.m. there’s a guy in a suit and tie interviewing folks and delivering the news. At 7 p.m. there’s a different guy in a suit and tie interviewing folks and delivering the news. Sophisticated viewers know the difference between news anchors and trash talkers, but most people probably don’t. Sure, Fox’s lawyers had to admit in court that Tucker Carlson is not “stating actual facts” and that he engages in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary,” but to regular viewers he is just another anchor and his outrage fest is just more news.
Ray W. says
I know the following description of an event is only anecdotal in nature.
During the 2000 recount in Volusia County, Republican lawyers from various other states came to Volusia County to represent the Republican view to the canvassing board members who were conducting the recount. The Democratic legal team was mostly local, but the lead attorney was based in the D.C. area. Each legal team had a large number of people assisting the lawyers.
During the second evening of the recount, the canvassing board addressed the issue of voter signatures and voted to conduct a signature count in 21 of the 172 precincts. An examination of number of ballots in the bins of the 172 precinct machines had revealed the existence of more ballots than the machine counter had tabulated in 21 of the machines. The question was whether enough voters had affixed their signatures to the logs kept by the precinct workers to account for all of the ballots.
Early the next morning, teams of Republican and Democratic lawyers and their assistants headed to the Division of Elections building to conduct the signature count. I led the Democratic team. As I walked across the street from the county administration building to the elections building, I discussed the day’s activities with a young deputy sheriff who had been assigned to provide security for the effort. I told the deputy that he would soon find out a major difference between Democrats and Republicans. I explained that Democrats would vote for a Republican if they believed the Republican was the best candidate for the office, but Republicans would never vote for a Democrat, regardless of merit, simply because Republicans hated Democrats. I told the deputy he was about to find this out for himself. Throughout the day, other lawyers and staffers from both parties entered the room to gather the signature counting results and take them back to their respective headquarters. About mid-afternoon, the deputy walked over to my table and leaned down to whisper in my ear that I had been right. He commented that all of the Republicans he had encountered that day were “assholes.” I admit I never dreamed during the 2000 recount that in 2021 a local Republican would take to the radio airwaves to talk about beheading Democrats. The Republicans involved in the 2000 recount may have assholes, but they did not pass themselves off as murderous assholes.
At the end of the day, each of the signature logs in the 21 precincts reflected enough voter signatures to account for the extra ballots. The hand recount of all of the ballots in all 172 precincts, plus the recount of the absentee ballots gave Gore a net gain of 151 votes, but one of the 172 machines in a heavily Republican precinct had suddenly shut off during election day and would not immediately restart. The precinct captain toggled the on-off switch a few times and it restarted, but the machine’s ballot counter reset at zero. Some 300 ballots were already in the bin at the time the machine quit working. When those 300 or so uncounted ballots were hand counted, Bush picked up a net 53 votes in the precinct, giving Gore an overall hand recount net gain of 98 votes.
Had the Republicans called me first, I would have represented Bush in the recount. It took the Republicans three days to realize they might be better served by using a local attorney to speak to the members of the canvassing board, so they brought in a well-respected DeLand attorney to help on the fourth and final day of the recount.
WOW! Ray, you were there. . . in the thick of it. . . on that fate filled day. What a story!
Gore most certainly showed much more patriotic class in his acceptance of that decision than megalomaniac “would be emperor” trump has.
You were right on when you told the officer that Democrats are more likely to vote for the best person regardless of party. . . while Republicans vote in lockstep for their party, no matter what. A great example of perverse “subjugation of the intellect”.
Ray W. says
One thing I left out of the recount story was an event that was covered by the News-Journal. On election day, the canvassing board discussed a machine failure that eventually prompted the recount. The machines were brand-new purchases after the debacle over the Vogel-Beckstrom sheriff’s race in 1996. As each of the three canvassing board members fed absentee ballots into their respective machines, one of the machines stopped accepting ballots. Concerned about the appearance of a failed machine, the canvassing board was about to vote for a full recount when a Republican observer pitched a fit. Deputies had to remove him by force from the room.
When the D.C.-based Democratic lead attorney flew in to lead the recount effort, he addressed a room filled with volunteers. In part, he advised that this would be his 10th recount involving a federal position, with the first nine recounts involving either a House or Senate race. He related that Democrats had gained votes in each of the nine recounts and added that other recounts had historically resulted in Democratic gains in votes. I’m sure some sociologist somewhere can provide a helpful answer as to why Democrats almost always pick up votes in hand recounts, but the pattern remains the same today. Almost every audit and recount of presidential votes from the 2020 election has revealed a net gain of votes for Biden. To me, the unscientific answer is that Republicans have figured out how to manipulate voting machine results in their favor. Who knows? I could be wrong.
At this point in our political history. . . considering how the Republicans are now kowtowing to the extreme right crazies. . . I wouldn’t be surprised.
Concerned Citizen says
One slight correction
Mullins was threatning Liberals. Not Dems. Eitherway it’s sad that he gets away with it. I suppose that’s what you get with a best buddy wearing a badge and running an agency.
Any one of us would still be in jail waiting on a court date for a slew of state and possibly federal charges.