Essential misinformation

It’s got to the stage when the GMC’s current move to get doctors struck of the medical register for “peddling misinformation” on social media is just another run of the mill event, rather than registering on our minds as the atrocity it actually is. I guess it’s like the Soviet Union in the 1930s, when the show trial of yet another revered government leader discovered to be a capitalist spy must have become routine. You took it for granted that most of your heroes were really traitors, and could only rely on Comrade Stalin.

All the now depressingly familiar indicators of institutional capture of the GMC are in evidence, including the lockstep introduction of precisely the same anti-science, anti-human policies in the State of California simultaneously. Someone seems to have distributed a totalitarian to-do list, and it’s not surprising if the same item is checked off in two places at once. The policy itself fits seamlessly into the whole fraudulent COVID narrative which, despite falling apart intellectually, still governs society and most individuals within it.

Today, though, rather than delving to find the particular corrupt motivations behind this GMC move – the involvement of Big Pharma money, the ideology of globalism, and so on – I want to discuss how, whether the current paranoia about misinformation is pathological or merely sociopathic, it has led to an exaggerated public fear of the bogeyman “misinformation” itself. We now take it for granted that misinformation is harmful, even when some of us argue about which narrative is false.

But in actuality, since most of what humans think they know is wrong, misinformation is not a deadly virus to be eradicated, but the normal, healthy, human environment. Tell me any one truth, and I’ll invent ninety-nine alternative falsehoods.

There is, of course, a direct microbiological parallel here, in the obsessional fear of “germs” that long predates (but helps explain) the COVID panic. This obsession with sterility dissolves away once you begin to understand the human microbiome and its essential role to healthy life. Another parallel is the way that climate change in itself has become an apocalyptic fear, whereas it is actually just a mundane fact that climates change. How often the dreaded bogeyman down the street, feared by all the children, turns out to be a nice guy with a war wound who’s fallen on hard times.

When there was freedom of speech, back in that forgotten golden age before a decade or so ago, there were some doctors with pretty eccentric views about the world, and even about medicine itself. I know, because I wrote for the same magazines as some of them.

For example, there was one very popular medical columnist who often wrote about how we could all live to be 200. He eventually got prosecuted for some non-medical criminal activity, but the longevity stuff was interesting, and clearly cuckoo.

But there were more debatable, and therefore educational, issues. I remember some discussion in the correspondence columns of World Medicine about the Holy Shroud of Turin, which prompted an article from one of the regular columnists, a hardnosed materialist, about “The Shroud Test,” to be applied to alternative medical approaches, essentially to dismiss them on first principle. Now, the value of the article (to me) was to get me questioning on what basis this “test” worked, paving the way to an understanding of how often-unsupported metaphysical assumptions dictate ones approach to evidence.

Some minority medical views changed my practice. I had a paediatric consultant who was into food allergy in a big way. Ultimately I concluded many of his ideas were wrong, but some weren’t, and I cured a few incurables over the years as a result. And in any case, he taught me to listen to all that patients said about their conditions, and learn from it, rather than impose the current (and constantly changing) wisdom unquestioningly. Hence I ended up treating patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (setting up the first GP multidisciplinary team in the country, I think), rather than, like some of my colleagues, telling them their symptoms were just psychological, yet offering no psychological therapy.

In another field, the tantalising accounts from some GPs on the effectiveness of spinal manipulation (officially the domain of quack osteopaths and chiropractors), and the assurances that it couldn’t work because research disproved it, led me to try it myself. Decades later, I was running the district back clinic, training other GPs in manipulative medicine, and understanding better how easily science can be biased to produce the results a hostile investigator wants (hint – manipulation doesn’t sell drugs). And I would not even be surprised to hear that the odd reader of this blog was helped by my quackery, given how patients in the practice gravitated to me for spinal complaints.

Censorship of all those heretical views and practices, though, quite apart from suppressing potentially valuable knowledge, creates a “red under the beds” paranoia. Not every advocate of public ownership in the nineteen fifties was a Soviet agitator. And public ownership could fruitfully be debated, and even evaluated in practice, in the real world without the world coming to an end. After World War 2, public ownership was probably the mainstream intellectual position, yet it proved generally to be harmful to the economy until Margaret Thatcher broke the mould and made privatization thinkable. That too has its faults, revealed over the decades, but it undoubtedly turned around Britain as an economic entity.

Suppose a doctor persuades somebody – even many people – not to take the COVID vaccines. Suppose even that directly, or indirectly, that persuades parents not to take their kids to have the MMR vaccine. Quite apart from the weakness of the mainstream propaganda on mRNA jabs, and the far-from-watertight case for the plethora of childhood vaccines now in use (see Dissolving Illusions by Suzanne Humphries, MD, if she’s not been struck off now, and Roman Bystrianyk), incomplete vaccine uptake will not destroy the world.

We know this from the rather unspectacular child-mortality from these infections despite the decreased uptake when fears of autism took hold. There have been less than five measles deaths in Britain in any year since 1988. The figures are similar for pertussis. Compare that with estimates of the number of deaths from myocarditis alone following COVID vaccination in a single year.

So “misinformation” (as defined by our far-from-infallible betters) does not, actually, cause massive harm, although censure and censorship surely do. On the contrary (and this has been said repeatedly), exposure to alternative opinions trains, inevitably, one’s critical faculties.

As a teenager, I was persuaded of the case for UFOs in the extreme mould of George Adamski, which led to later disillusion, but to a greater understanding of critiquing evidence. And paradoxically, that misinformation led me to my lifelong Christian faith, because the untenable idea that Jesus was an enlightened extra-terrestrial missionary (often found in those uncensored UFO books) made me take him seriously and read the gospels. After my conversion, the UFology dross fell away.

And that’s how worldviews develop: by gradually sorting truth from falsehood, and not, as the powers that be want us to believe, by accepting their entire narrative rather than some equally packaged alternative. Hence, in their eyes, you must either believe that Ukraine is a contemporary Arcadia, or be a Putin stooge. Being exposed to misinformation will doom you to the latter, even when the misinformation happens to be true, so the press sets up an alternative reality defined as “information,” even when most of it is blatant lies, and the rest is censored to preserve our freedom. Democracy can only function when there is no choice.

So censorship creates bogeymen, and by its very nature fills the world with dark shadows in which unnameable horrors lurk. We have a surfeit of those now, as the world simultaneously sinks into anarchy under transphobia and far-right extremism, burns away from the climate crisis, and becomes a radioactive wasteland once the mad Emmanuel Putinstein is provoked by our wise leaders into nuclear war. And we won’t have any doctors, either, because they all turned out to be anti-science golf-addicts and were struck off.

In the bad old days, however, when we welcomed weird ideas, and even gave them free expression in our professional periodicals, the world was actually a richer, safer and more truthful place. But don’t take my word for it – there’s a YouTube video that said the same thing, only they’ve taken it down.

Arcadia, by Nicolas Poussin – “They say this is misinformation – lucky we’ve forgotten how to read.”

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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