Part of the fun of reading Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World is that you get to put yourself in the dictator’s shoes. In the book, Xi is an allegory for the Chinese Communist Party in the 21st century. Xi’s “lines” break up the writing with dark humor, a satirical jab at western elites’ blasé attitude toward an advanced, totalitarian regime with overtly-manipulative goals. The book invites you to see through the bad guy’s eyes and imagine just how easy it was to subvert the free world into totalitarianism using the response to a perfectly banal virus.
Alas, to that end, my book has been upstaged by the work of Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, one of the “Trifecta” of three leading officials behind Covid lockdowns in the United States. Virtually every page of Birx’s monstrosity of a book, Silent Invasion, reads like a how-to guide in subverting a democratic superpower from within, as could only be told through the personal account of someone who was on the front lines doing just that.
Notably, though Birx’s memoir has earned relatively few reviews on Amazon, it’s earned rave reviews from Chinese state media, a feat not shared even by far-more-popular pro-lockdown books such as those by Michael Lewis and Lawrence Wright.
The glowing response from Chinese state media should come as no surprise, however, because every sentence of Birx’s book reads like it was written by the CCP itself. Chapter 1 opens with what she claims was her first impression of the virus.
I can still see the words splashed across my computer screen in the early morning hours of January 3. Though we were barely into 2020, I was stuck in an old routine, waking well before dawn and scanning news headlines online. On the BBC’s site, one caught my attention: “China Pneumonia Outbreak: Mystery Virus Probed in Wuhan.”
Indeed, as recounted in Snake Oil, that BBC article, which was posted at approximately 9:00 AM EST on January 3, 2020, was the first in a western news organization to discuss the outbreak of a new virus in Wuhan. Apparently, Birx was scanning British news headlines just as it appeared. What are the odds!
Birx wastes no time in telling us where she got her philosophy of disease mitigation, recalling how she immediately thought Chinese citizens “knew what had worked” against SARS-1: Masks and distancing.
Government officials and citizens across Asia knew both the pervasive fear and the personal response that had worked before to mitigate the loss of life and the economic damage wrought by SARS and MERS. They wore masks. They decreased the frequency and size of social gatherings.Crucially, based on their recent experience, the entire citizenry and local doctors were ringing alarm bells loudly and early. Lives were on the line—lots of them. They knew what had worked before, and they would do it again.
Birx spends countless pages tut-tutting the CCP for its “cover-up” of the virus (though Chinese state media apparently didn’t mind, as they gushed about her book anyway), which is funny because then she tells us:
On January 3, the same day the BBC piece ran, the Chinese government officially notified the United States of the outbreak. Bob Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was contacted by his Chinese counterpart, George F. Gao.
Note, January 3 is also the same day the hero whistleblower Li Wenliang was supposedly admonished by authorities for sending a WeChat message about a “cover-up” of the outbreak. So on the same day Li was “admonished,” the head of China’s CDC literally called US CDC Director Robert Redfield to share the exact same information Li supposedly shared.
Off to a strong start. But from here, Birx’s abomination of book only gets worse. Much worse.
A page later, she tells us how traumatized she still is at seeing all those videos of Wuhan residents collapsing and falling dead in January 2020, and praises the “courageous doctor” who shared them online.
The video showed a hallway crowded with patients slumped in chairs. Some of the masked people leaned against the wall for support. The camera didn’t pan so much as zigzag while the Chinese doctor maneuvered her smartphone up the narrow corridor. My eye was drawn to two bodies wrapped in sheets lying on the floor amid the cluster of patients and staff. The doctor’s colleagues, their face shields and other personal protective equipment in place, barely glanced at the lens as she captured the scene. They looked past her, as if at a harrowing future they could all see and hoped to survive. I tried to increase the volume, but there was no sound. My mind seamlessly filled that void, inserting the sounds from my past, sounds from other wards, other places of great sorrow. I had been here before. I had witnessed scenes like this across the globe, in HIV ravaged communities— when hospitals were full of people dying of AIDS before we had treatment or before we ensured treatment to those who needed it. I had lived this, and it was etched permanently in my brain: the unimaginable, devastating loss of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, brothers, sisters.
Staring at my computer screen, I was horrified by the images from Wuhan, the suffering they portrayed, but also because they confirmed what I’d suspected for the last three weeks: Not only was the Chinese government underreporting the real numbers of the infected and dying in Wuhan and elsewhere, but the situation was definitely far more dire than most people outside that city realized. Up until now, I’d been only reading or hearing about the virus. Now it had been made visible by a courageous doctor sharing this video online.
As a reminder, Birx’s book was published in April 2022. The videos Birx is recalling were all proven fake by the spring of 2020.
In the next paragraph, Birx tells us how she grew even more determined after seeing that the Chinese had built a hospital in 10 days to fight the virus.
Dotting it were various pieces of earth-moving equipment, enough of them in various shapes and sizes that I briefly wondered if the photograph was of a manufacturing plant where the newly assembled machines were on display. Quickly, I learned that the machines were in Wuhan and that they were handling the first phase of preparatory work for the construction of a one-thousand-bed hospital to be completed in just ten days’ time… The Chinese may not have been giving accurate data about the numbers of cases and deaths, but the rapid spread of this disease could be counted in other ways—including in how many Chinese workers were being employed to build new facilities to relieve the pressure on the existing, and impressive, Wuhan health service centers. You build a thousand-bed hospital in ten days only if you are experiencing unrelenting community spread of a highly contagious virus that has eluded your containment measures and is now causing serious illness on a massive scale.
This hospital construction, again, was proven fake literally days after Chinese state media posted it.
So just to recap, here we have Deborah Birx—the woman who did more than almost any other person in the United States to promote and prolong Covid lockdowns, silencing anyone who disagreed with her, to the incessant praise of mainstream media outlets—telling us she’d been inspired by all those images of Wuhan residents falling dead and constructing a hospital in 10 days, and still didn’t realize they were fake two years after they’d been proven fake.
And that’s just Chapter 1.
Birx then spends hundreds of pages recounting her clandestine political maneuvers—from the day she stepped foot in the White House—to get as much of America as possible to stay in lockdown for as long as possible, without making it look like a “lockdown.”
At this point, I wasn’t about to use the words lockdown or shutdown.If I had uttered either of those in early March, after being at the White House only one week, the political, nonmedical members of the task force would have dismissed me as too alarmist, too doom-and-gloom, too reliant on feelings and not facts. They would have campaigned to lock me down and shut me up.
Birx proudly recalls using “flatten-the-curve guidance” to manipulate the President’s administration into consenting to lockdowns that were stricter than they realized.
On Monday and Tuesday, while sorting through the CDC data issues, we worked simultaneously to develop the flatten-the-curve guidance I hoped to present to the vice president at week’s end. Getting buy-in on the simple mitigation measures every American could take was just the first step leading to longer and more aggressive interventions. We had to make these palatable to the administration by avoiding the obvious appearance of a full Italian lockdown. At the same time, we needed the measures to be effective at slowing the spread, which meant matching as closely as possible what Italy had done—a tall order. We were playing a game of chess in which the success of each move was predicated on the one before it.
Never mind that this kind of manipulation by a presidential advisor is probably not legal. Birx doubles down, inadvertently admitting where that arbitrary number “ten” came from for her guidance as to the size of social gatherings, while admitting her real goal was “zero”—no social contact of any kind, anywhere.
I had settled on ten knowing that even that was too many, but I figured that ten would at least be palatable for most Americans—high enough to allow for most gatherings of immediate family but not enough for large dinner parties and, critically, large weddings, birthday parties, and other mass social events.… Similarly, if I pushed for zero (which was actually what I wanted and what was required), this would have been interpreted as a “lockdown”—the perception we were all working so hard to avoid.
Birx divulges her strategy of using federal advisories to give cover to state governors to impose mandates and restrictions.
The White House would “encourage,” but the states could “recommend” or, if needed, “mandate.” In short, we were handing governors and their public health officials a template, a state-level permission slip they could use to enact a specific response that was appropriate for the people under their jurisdiction. The fact that the guidelines would be coming from a Republican White House gave political cover to any Republican governors skeptical of federal overreach
Then, Birx recalls with delight as her strategy led the states to shut down one by one.
[T]he recommendations served as the basis for governors to mandate the flattening-the-curve shutdowns. The White House had handed down guidance, and the governors took that ball and ran with it…With the White House’s “this is serious” message, governors now had “permission” to mount a proportionate response and, one by one, other states followed suit. California was first, doing so on March 18. New York followed on March 20. Illinois, which had declared its own state of emergency on March 9, issued shelter-in-place orders on March 21. Louisiana did so on the twenty-second. In relatively short order by the end of March and the first week of April, there were few holdouts. The circuit-breaking, flattening-the-curve shutdown had begun.
All that’s missing is the maniacal laugh.
In what may be the most damning quote of the entire US response to Covid, in one paragraph, Birx tells us that she’d always intended “two weeks to slow the spread” as a lie and immediately wanted those two weeks extended, despite having no data to show why that was necessary.
No sooner had we convinced the Trump administration to implement our version of a two-week shutdown than I was trying to figure out how to extend it. Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread was a start, but I knew it would be just that. I didn’t have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them. However hard it had been to get the fifteen-day shutdown approved, getting another one would be more difficult by many orders of magnitude.
This is one of several quotes in which Birx refers to “our version” of a lockdown, though she never makes it clear what the original “version” of a lockdown is. As a matter of fact, though Birx spends hundreds of pages boasting about her scorched-earth crusade for lockdowns across America, she never once explains why she wanted this or why she felt it was a good idea, other than some brief asides about China’s supposed success using social distancing during SARS-1.
Birx’s apparent plan to almost singlehandedly destroy the world’s primary democratic superpower is going swimmingly until she meets the book’s leading antagonist: Dr. Scott Atlas. To Birx’s disgust, Atlas takes a strong stand for all the things she loathes most—things like human rights, democratic governance, and, most of all, freedom.
Birx lists Atlas’s “dangerous assertions”:
That schools could open everywhere without any precautions (neither masking nor testing), regardless of the status of the spread in the community.
That children did not transmit the virus.
That children didn’t get ill. That there was no risk to anyone young.
That long Covid-19 was being overplayed.
That heart-damage findings were incidental.
That comorbidities did not play a critical role in communities, especially among teachers.
That merely employing some physical distance overcame the virus’s ill effects.
That masks were overrated and not needed.
That the Coronavirus Task Force had gotten the country into this situation by promoting testing.
That testing falsely increased case counts in the United States in comparison with other countries.
That targeted testing and isolation constituted a lockdown, plain and simple, and weren’t needed.
That every word of Atlas’s assertions was obviously 100% true only made them all the more dangerous. As Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said, “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world,” and nothing would derail the world’s communist destiny faster than letting these self-evident truths spread freely.
In particular, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta was a key component of my strategy… He specifically spoke about a mild disease—another way to describe silent spread. I saw this as a sign that he got it. As a doctor himself, he could see what I was seeing. He could serve as a very good outside-government spokesperson, echoing my message that family members and others they were in close contact with could unknowingly bring the virus home, resulting in a catastrophic and deadly event.
Birx frequently emphasizes her fixation with the concept of “asymptomatic spread.” In her mind, the less sick a person is, the more “insidious” they are:
Asymptomatic, presymptomatic, and even mildly symptomatic spread are particularly insidious because, with these, many people don’t know they are infected. They may not take precautions or may not practice good hygiene, and they don’t isolate.
As Scott Atlas recalls in his own book, A Plague Upon Our House:
Birx commented on the importance of testing asymptomatic people. She argued that the only way to figure out who was sick was to test them. She memorably exclaimed, “That’s why it’s so dangerous—people don’t even know they’re sick!” I felt myself looking around the room, wondering if I was the only one who had heard this.
Birx spends roughly the next 150 pages of her book recalling her anguish as Atlas thwarted her plans to keep America in a near-permanent state of lockdown. As Atlas recalls:
She threw a fit, right there, in front of everyone, as we stood near the door before leaving the Oval Office. She was furious, screaming at me, “NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!! AND IN THE OVAL!!” I felt pretty bad, because she was so angry. I had absolutely no desire for conflict. But did she actually expect me to lie to the president, just to cover up for her? I responded, “Sorry, but he asked me a question, so I answered it.”
Indeed, Birx’s memoir corroborates the testimony in Atlas’s book of the outsized role he played in bringing lockdowns in the United States to an end. More than anything, this involved standing up to Birx who, contrary to popular belief, did more than even Fauci to promote and prolong lockdowns across the United States. As Atlas explains:
Dr. Fauci held court in the public eye on a daily basis, so frequently that many misconstrue his role as being in charge. However, it was really Dr. Birx who articulated Task Force policy. All the advice from the Task Force to the states came from Dr. Birx. All written recommendations about their on-the-ground policies were from Dr. Birx. Dr. Birx conducted almost all the visits to states on behalf of the Task Force.
Unlike the vast majority of our leaders and institutions, Atlas did not shrug this responsibility, and for that, our entire nation owes him a special thanks. I vividly recall reading Atlas’s articles in early 2020, correctly predicting that “The COVID-19 shutdown will cost Americans millions of years of life,” a rare light in that dark, dystopian period.
Still, I don’t want to give anyone in this story too much credit. How is it possible that the woman who did more than any other person to shut down the United States doesn’t know that all those videos from Wuhan were fake, two years after FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly stated, on July 7, 2020:
We have heard from federal, state, and even local officials that Chinese diplomats are aggressively urging support for China’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Yes, this is happening at both the federal and state levels. Not that long ago, we had a state senator who was recently even asked to introduce a resolution supporting China’s response to the pandemic.
What has the FBI been doing this whole time? As Atlas recalls:
Seema laughingly related that she was frantically looking around as the usual outlandish nonsense was being put forth, knowing that I would have been the one to push back.
Then she got to the point. “Scott, we need to get rid of Birx. She is a disaster! She keeps saying the same things over and over; she’s incredibly insecure; she doesn’t understand what’s going on. We need to eliminate her moving forward.”
Well no wonder Birx was “insecure.” She’d just spent the better part of a year in the White House orchestrating unprecedented crimes against humanity on her own people. These lockdowns ultimately killed tens of thousands of young Americans while failing to meaningfully slow the spread of the coronavirus everywhere they were tried. Whether she did so wittingly or unwittingly, it’s absolutely unseemly that no one around her put a stop to it.
Atlas recalls being baffled as to why Birx had ever been appointed to her role in the first place:
I also asked how she had been appointed—that seemed to be a bit of a mystery to everyone. I was told by Jared, more than once, “Dr. Birx is 100 percent MAGA!”—as if that should make all the other issues somehow less important. Secretary Azar denied appointing her during his stint running the Task Force. I was told by the VP’s chief of staff, Marc Short, that Pence “inherited her” when he took over as chair of the Task Force. No one seemed to know.
Jared Kushner’s reaction is ironic, given Birx’s later admission that she “had a pact with medical bureaucrats—Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield, Stephen Hahn and perhaps others—that all would resign if even one were removed by then-President Donald Trump.” Democrats in Congress are now defending Birx from scrutiny for the role she played in lockdowns in the United States.
As it turns out, Birx was not “100% MAGA.” She wasn’t even 10% MAGA.
Now, I’m not saying Deborah Birx is a CCP agent. I’m just saying that if she was an agent for Xi Jinping’s stated goal of gradually stripping the world of “independent judiciaries,” “human rights,” “western freedom,” “civil society,” and “freedom of the press,” then every word of her book would read like that of Silent Invasion. If she did do it, this is how it would have happened.
But in researching this topic for over two years, few things have made my hair stand on end more than the clues Birx gives about the man who did appoint her to her role. This man, who will be the subject of my next deep dive, is a little-known, clean-cut, Mandarin-fluent intelligence operative who arguably played a greater role than even Fauci or Birx in bringing China’s totalitarian virus response to the United States, acting as a direct liaison between Chinese scientists and the White House on key items of pseudoscience including asymptomatic spread, universal masking, and remdesivir: Matthew Pottinger.