Reason Roundup

'QAnon Shaman' Jacob Chansley Gets 41 Months in Prison

Plus: Detroit schools close on Fridays just because, Scott Alexander offers a plausible ivermectin theory, and more...


Jacob Chansley, the horned, shirtless figure known as the QAnon Shaman who participated in the mob storming the Capitol on January 6, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his part in the riot.

If a 3.5-year sentence sounds harsh for what was ultimately a nonviolent charge—obstructing an official proceeding in Congress—consider that Chansley has already spent the past several months in jail in solitary confinement.

According to NPR:

Before announcing his sentence, Judge Lamberth told Chansley he believes that his remorse is genuine and heartfelt, but he also told Chansley that "what you did was terrible."

He said Chansley had made the right decision to plead guilty and take responsibility for his actions, instead of going to trial where he faced a much longer possible sentence.

"You were facing 20 years, Mr. Chansley. The one advantage you get here is you're only facing now 41 months," Lamberth said. "It may not feel it today, but let me guarantee you, you were smart and did the right thing."

The sentenced handed down was less than the 51 months the Justice Department had recommended for Chansley, whom prosecutors described as the "flag bearer" of the Capitol riot.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall told the court at the start of the hearing that such a sentence was necessary "to send a strong message" to Chansley and anyone who would wish to do harm to the country.

Chansley felt he had no choice but to accept the plea deal that came with that 41-month sentence, of course, because he couldn't risk a trial that could send him to prison for 20 years. This is the sad reality of the criminal justice system: Defendants often plead guilty in order to avoid absurdly long mandatory sentences, and are thus denied the opportunity to actually attempt to prove their innocence before a jury of their peers.

The people who entered and defaced the Capitol on January 6 are not political prisoners, and they are certainly not heroes. They committed trespassing and broke other laws, and it's legitimate for the government to prosecute them. But this sentence is too harsh; Chansley did not commit a violent crime, and is certainly unlikely to re-offend. If prosecutors disagree, they should have to prove that to a jury: Unfortunately, the threat of an even lengthier sentence prompts most defendants to fall in line.


Scott Alexander has penned the definitive summary of the available evidence on ivermectin as an effective COVID-19 therapeutic. Writing for his Substack, Astral Codex Ten, Alexander argues that many of the ivermectin studies involved unreliable methodologies or should be dismissed for other reasons. But others appear to hold up, and his ultimate conclusion is that ivermectin does seem to provide a very, very small but measurable benefit for patients infected with COVID-19.

Alexander notes, however, that the studies where ivermectin appeared to do the most good seem to be concentrated in certain parts of the world—India, Bangladesh—with higher-than-average intestinal worm problems. His theory—and it's a very good one—is that ivermectin doesn't directly improve COVID-19 outcomes: Rather, these studies were disproportionately likely to include patients suffering from worms, which had rendered their immune systems less able to fight off other infections. Since ivermectin is highly effective at fighting worms, it indirectly resulted in an improvement over the placebo group by helping patients overcome their intestinal worms—a not insignificant boon in their simultaneous battles against COVID-19. Alexander explains:

Treatment of worm infections might reduce the negative effect of COVID-19! And ivermectin is a deworming drug! You can see where this is going…

The most relevant species of worm here is the roundworm Strongyloides stercoralis. Among the commonest treatments for COVID-19 is corticosteroids, a type of immunosuppresant drug. The types of immune responses it suppresses do more harm than good in coronavirus, so turning them off limits collateral damage and makes patients better on net. But these are also the types of immune responses that control Strongyloides. If you turn them off even very briefly, the worms multiply out of control, you get what's called "Strongyloides hyperinfection", and pretty often you die. According to the WHO:

The current COVID-19 pandemic serves to highlight the risk of using systemic corticosteroids and, to a lesser extent, other immunosuppressive therapy, in populations with significant risk of underlying strongyloidiasis. Cases of strongyloidiasis hyperinfection in the setting of corticosteroid use as COVID-19 therapy have been described and draw attention to the necessity of addressing the risk of iatrogenic strongyloidiasis hyperinfection syndrome in infected individuals prior to corticosteroid administration.

Although this has gained importance in the midst of a pandemic where corticosteroids are one of few therapies shown to improve mortality, its relevance is much broader given that corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive therapies have become increasingly common in treatment of chronic diseases (e.g. asthma or certain rheumatologic conditions).

So you need to "address the risk" of strongyloides infection during COVID treatment in roundworm-endemic areas. And how might you address this, WHO?

Treatment of chronic strongyloidiasis with ivermectin 200 µg/kg per day orally x 1-2 days is considered safe with potential contraindications including possible Loa loa infection (endemic in West and Central Africa), pregnancy, and weight <15kg.

Given ivermectin's safety profile, the United States has utilized presumptive treatment with ivermectin for strongyloidiasis in refugees resettling from endemic areas, and both Canada and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have issued guidance on presumptive treatment to avoid hyperinfection in at risk populations. Screening and treatment, or where not available, addition of ivermectin to mass drug administration programs should be studied and considered.

This is serious and common enough that, if you're not going to screen for it, it might be worth "add[ing] ivermectin to mass drug administration programs" in affected areas!

The good ivermectin trials in areas with low Strongyloides prevalence, like Vallejos in Argentina, are mostly negative. The good ivermectin trials in areas with high Strongyloides prevalence, like Mahmud in Bangladesh, are mostly positive.

Alexander notes that he's only about 50 percent confident in his hypothesis. He could be wrong, of course. But it's quite an elegant solution to the ivermectin riddle.

Reason's Ronald Bailey has written that ivermectin is clearly "not a miracle cure," though it might have some marginal efficacy.


Detroit's public school district will move to virtual education on Fridays in December, in part because administrators think additional time to clean the buildings will help slow the spread of COVID-19. According to Chalkbeat:

The Detroit school district is moving to remote instruction for three Fridays in December in an effort to slow the spread of COVID and give the staff time to deep clean schools.

The move was announced Wednesday on the district's web site. It comes as the state is leading the nation in new COVID cases.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in that statement that he and the school board made the decision "after listening and reflecting on the concerns of school-based leaders, teachers, support staff, students, and families regarding the need for mental health relief, rising COVID cases, and time to more thoroughly clean schools."

Learning will move online on Dec. 3, Dec. 10, and Dec. 17.

Cleaning schools more thoroughly will not slow the spread of COVID-19. No matter how desperate some education officials are to pretend otherwise, scrubbing down surfaces is a component of COVID-19 hygiene theater. The disease primarily spreads via people expelling respiratory droplets at each other. Virus particles do not survive on surfaces for long.

Moreover, the extremely small benefit of more cleaning is more than canceled out by the massive drawback of additional school closures. Students who had to deal with virtual school for a year are suffering significant pandemic-related learning losses; at this point, given that COVID-19 poses very little threat to kids, schools must fight to stay open as much as possible.

Unfortunately, some schools would sooner close than deal with reality. A middle school in Oregon has decided to shut down for three weeks "to address student fights and misbehaviors." The New York Times' Michelle Goldberg correctly characterized this as a school "closing to deal with the catastrophic fallout of school closures."

Detroit's public schools aren't the only ones closing, either. In Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, students will be virtual on Fridays through January.

If public schools refuse to actually do the job of educating children and providing day care services for working parents, then families should be able to withdraw their per-pupil funds and spend these education dollars where they would actually do some good.


• The judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial doesn't like the way he was covered in the media and is turning against courtroom cameras.

• Two men convicted of killing Malcolm X in 1965 have been exonerated.

• The House of Representatives voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R–Ariz.) for sharing an edited anime video in which a figure with his face slays a monster with the face of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.).

• Steven Pinker and Robert Zimmer are no longer involved in the University of Austin.

• The HBO Max special celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter movie will not include J.K. Rowling.