Enough with the ranting about “misinformation.”
The country is getting close to “Red Scare” territory, and worse than that, the ranting does not work.
DOES NOT WORK!
Ranting about misinformation is like telling people they’re stupid and thinking that will somehow make them smarter.
People have a bad habit of rebelling at what they are ordered to believe. Remember Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Democracy is the greatest form of government in the world, but just because you tell people that doesn’t mean, they will buy it. The “misinformed” are as likely as not going to choose some other form of government.
Those ranting about “misinformation” in the U.S. today are the George W. Bushes of 2003. You remember President Bush the junior, right?
The one who believed that once the dictator Saddam Hussein was removed from power the Iraqis would embrace Americans and American democracy with open arms.
Winning the peace
Cutting off the head of the enemy – ie. killing the enemy’s leaders – works well in warfare. But then warfare is simple. All it requires is the skill to kill the enemy.
Peace is difficult. You have to sell others on your ideas and principles, and calling them names or, worse, threatening their jobs, their families or even their pets is not a good sales tactic.
It might have been funny when National Lampoon magazine joked about it in 1973, but such tactics didn’t keep the magazine alive. It was dead before the internet exploded to life in the new millennium.
Readers no longer clamored for the Lampoon’s information or misinformation or whatever between the two it was selling.
This is the nature of democracy. Ideas come and go. Some are good. A lot are bad. Right or wrong, people get chose what they want to believe.
It has been this nation’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Misinformation, most especially government-driven misinformation, has been a problem almost since forever in the U.S.
But to cite two big examples in modern times, there is the Gulf of Tonkin misinformation concocted by the administration of Democrat President Lydon Johnson that led the country deep into the quagmire destined to be eventually known as The War in Vietnam.
And there is the weapons of mass destruction misinformation pushed by the administration of Republican President George W. Bush that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq and the chaos that followed.
Anyone who truly wants to worry about the danger of misinformation ought to be worrying about every word coming out of the mouth of a U.S. government official, but somehow the pandemic has led many to anoint government officials as fountains of truth
Alaska doctors made national news this week for demanding the State Medical Board, an entity of the Alaska state government, investigate and sanction doctors who question the efficacy of vaccines or suggest off-label use of drugs to treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the now well-known SARS-CoV-2 virus.
One almost has to ask if they’d sanction Dr. Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist in charge of Sweden’s pandemic response, for spreading misinformation. He early on observed that face coverings might be less than helpful in preventing Covid-19 infections.
“…Tegnell, has claimed that it is very dangerous to believe that face masks would ‘change the game’ in terms of novel coronavirus.
“Tegnell told Financial Times that the face masks can be a complement to other things ‘when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls – that’s definitely a mistake.'”
That was in August of 2020, more than a year ago.
Since then masks have become de rigueur in many places either by government mandate or social pressure, and tens of thousands have died of Covid-19.
A University of Vermont study concluded that Tegnell might be right. It found that masks encouraged close contact between people. And as the number of close contacts went up, the risks of the uninfected engaging in close contact with the infected went up.
The inevitable result was more infections, not fewer.
Despite this, some Anchorage doctors have been at the forefront of those demanding mandatory masking in Alaska’s largest city. Should they be sanctioned instead of Tegnell, or is wokeness an adequate shield?
For the record, Sweden is still struggling with the disease as are most countries in Europe at this moment, but the Nordic nation is not doing so bad now.
Early in the pandemic, Swedish author Johan Anderberg wrote at the start of the month, it was not unreasonable to assume Sweden’s seemingly laidback approach to the pandemic was a mistake as then-President Donald Trump loudly pointed out in 2020.
“But the experiment continued,” Anderberg added. “During the year that followed, the virus ravaged the world and several of the shutdown countries now passed Sweden’s death toll – one by one.
“Great Britain, USA, France, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Belgium – countries that blocked playgrounds, forced their children to wear mouth guards, closed schools, fined citizens for hanging on the beach, guarded parks with drones – all have they been hit worse than Sweden.
“At the time of writing, over 50 countries have a higher proportion of deaths in covid.
“If you measure excess mortality for the whole of 2020, Sweden, according to Eurostat, will end up in 21st place out of 31 European countries.
“This fact must be one of the world’s most underreported news. Considering all the articles and TV features that were made about Sweden’s foolishly liberal attitude to the pandemic a year ago, considering how certain data sources were referenced daily in the world media, it is strange that the same sources today seem completely uninteresting.”
Tegnell, it is here worth noting, is also the scientist who observed at the very start of the pandemic that it was going to be a marathon not a sprint.
He was wholly right about that, and the finish line still isn’t in sight. The pendulum could in the weeks and months ahead swing against Sweden.
The country’s infection and death rates could again soar as they are soaring in much of the rest of Europe at this time. Scientists aren’t much better at predicting the future than the rest of us.
The fundamental reason why is that neither nature nor science is static; they are fluid. The world we live in changes daily, and what we actually know changes almost as fast.
Case in point: ivermectin.
A drug originally developed to treat parasitic infections, ivermectin was only months ago being hailed as a cheap and effective treatment for Covid-19.
A two-dose treatment of ivermectin “with a gap of 72 hours was associated with a 73 percent reduction of SARS-CoV-2 infection among healthcare workers for the following month” in India, a PLOS One study reported in February.
The drug quickly became a rage in that country. When the World Health Organization first questioned its effectiveness, the Indian Bar Association accused the WHO of running a “disinformation campaign.”
A June meta-analysis of all the research done on the drug as it relates to Covid-19 up to that time lent some support to the Indian bar.
The peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics concluded that “moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally.”
Then some of the studies utilized in the meta-analysis were questioned. An article in Nature pointed out flaws in many, and the authors of the paper in question decided to re-examine and re-analyze the data.
“The (original) overall meta-analysis found a 51 percent increase in survival with ivermectin, but excluding the potentially fraudulent trial, ivermectin’s benefit fell to 38 percent and was of borderline significance,” Medpage Today reported in its summary of all this in October.
“Taking out the studies with a high risk of bias led to a further drop – down to a nonsignificant 10 percent increase in survival…Further removing studies with a moderate risk of bias took the benefit down to four percent.”
As all of this was going on, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned people not to take ivermectin intended for animals – for which it is a common dewormer – to protect themselves from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“There are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals but it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19,” the FDA said. “You should not take any medicine to treat or prevent COVID-19 unless it has been prescribed to you by your health care provider and acquired from a legitimate source.”
As the situation stands today, ivermectin’s value as a COVID-19 treatment remains undetermined. Several clinical trials are still underway.
“Some stud(ies) did not find significant difference between the patient group receiving ivermectin and control group,” says the prospectus for one of those posted at Clinical Trials.gov. “Until now, the controlled trials evaluating ivermectin in COVID-19 are lacking. Ivermectin is safe, with reported side effect of less than 1 percent. Hence it is essential to conduct a clinical trial with ivermectin in patients with COVID-19. The objective of this study is to establish the efficacy of ivermectin for COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate disease.”
That study being conducted in Thailand isn’t expected to be completed until the end of the year. Another trial is underway at the University of Minnesota and is likely to take even longer.
“The multi-site clinical trial led by the University of Minnesota Medical School received an important green light from the Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) to continue enrolling,” the university reported last week. “Safety data from the study is analyzed every two weeks, and now, the DSMB’s first early futility and efficacy report said none of the study arms were futile and enrollment should continue.
“‘This is important because, if the data showed that one or more of the medications wasn’t protecting volunteers at all, the DSMB would halt that arm of the study,’ Carolyn Bramante, MD, principal investigator of the study and an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the U of M Medical School. ‘We’re actively recruiting additional participants to complete this study and give answers about whether or not these medications, along with COVID-19 vaccination, can be an important tool in preventing hospitalization, reducing viral load or lowering risk for long COVID.'”
Ivermectin might still prove to be useful in treating Covid-19 as fluvoxamine, a drug long used to treat depression, appears to be. Another common and cheap drug, it is currently being hailed the way ivermectin was at first in India.
But the fluvoxamine excitement comes from the results of one study. A greater pool of studies could well lead to other conclusions as to the effectiveness of the drug.
Drug studies are difficult in that not all drugs work the same for all people, and it is common to find differences in how some drugs work for men or women.
Science is complicated. It lacks the clean and clear authority of religion. What science is sure of today can change tomorrow.
And, yes, there are people who take advantage of this to engage in quackery. They are thankfully few, and the current campaign against “misinformation” isn’t really about them.
The campaign casts a broader net aimed to ensnare anyone who questions the dogma of the day. That’s dangerous behavior in a democracy and, worse, it is a threat to science itself.