Thoughts, news and information about the world as seen through RV windows
RSS icon Home icon
  • On Covid-19 Censorship

    Posted on February 20th, 2021 admin No comments

    Recently, my friend Lorraine wrote to me:

    I think it is highly obvious the internet is completely censored because anybody with a dissenting point of view on covi/vaccines are being trashed and their videos are being immediately taken down.  Legitimate doctors are being shamed, shunned, and vilified. There is only one narrative on the internet and in the media.

    Here’s my response:

    Yes, you are quite right about this — there is a definite effort to control the spread of certain information, and this can be considered a form of censorship.   Here’s a good discussion of this from the UK, explaining why this censorship is happening.  Do read it. $4000/month is a good reason to put up a page, however spurious its content.  Also, pay heed to the part about Russian bots spreading misinformation:  False health information can be disastrous, but “alternative” doesn’t always mean illegitimate. Can Facebook tell the difference?

    The internet is not “completely” censored.  I’ve been looking around, and it seems that it conventional medical sites, research sites, universities, and health authorities are not being “censored”, nor are alternative health websites being taken down quite as much as are particular posts and pages in social media.  It is, as you say, the dissidents, the off-shoots, the fringe, the outré, the mavericks who go against accepted methods and treatments that are under dispute.

    I’ll continue my discussion of censorship, to look at why this information is being removed, and to debate whether or not, in my opinion, such removal is in the public interest. Please read the whole essay, don’t just stop and respond to the first one or two sections.

    Censorship is  the deliberate suppression or prohibition of information that is considered obscene, politically or socially unacceptable, totally incorrect, or a threat to the security or safety of the public.    So for this, we have to consider whether those “different opinions” you refer to that are “shamed, shunned, and vilified” (lovely phrasing!)  are any of  1) Obscene; 2) Unacceptable; 3) Incorrect; 4) A threat to security; 5) A threat to the safety of the public.

    1. Are their views obscene?  Probably not.

    Obscenity is a poorly defined construct, but generally considered to refer to words, actions, or images which are lewd, filthy, disgusting or offensive.  These in turn are vague; what is offensive to you might not bother me a bit, public nudity for example.  Things I find obscene, such as the steady diet of murders, rapes, and violent crime shown on TV as “entertainment” are apparently not offensive to the general public.   So the first question I ask is, ‘Can any of the views or actions of these people be considered obscene?”

    Rashid Buttar, to pick just one example of the anti-vax movement,  has been reprimanded by the North Carolina Medical Board for exploiting patients by charging exorbitant fees for unproven therapies, and ordering expensive tests to make more money.  (The reprimand and high fees are facts; the “unproven therapies” is opinion but could be discussed later. )  Is exploiting patients not only a violation medical ethics but also a form of obscenity?  He was also reprimanded for treating a child he had neither seen nor examined, another violation of medical ethics.  Do you consider these actions acceptable?  

    I suppose the obverse is that in a capitalist economy, you charge whatever the market will bear, getting rich is a worthy goal, and there are suckers born every minute so why not take advantage?  I think Buttar appears to be something of a greedy scumbag. You may argue that his treatments are both effective and worth the money, and that the stories about him are malicious fabrications, or that he is being “shamed, shunned and vilified” unfairly; if that is the case, we are blocked, and can go no further.  We examine the same evidence and reach differing conclusions.

    On the whole, however, although the actions of some practitioners may be “obscene”, I can’t see these alternative medical views in and of themselves as being “obscene”.

    2. Are these views unacceptable to mainstream thinking?  A definite yes.

    There is right now a great pressure for “political correctness”, and we are all expected to migrate with the herd.  There is a great distrust of government; even democratic governments are historically corrupt, and an election merely exchanges one set of criminals for a new set.   Mega-businesses like Facebook and Google are starting to be revealed as agents of control and enemies of privacy.   Nonetheless, the social media giants are under scrutiny and being held responsible for cleaning up their acts, which I see as progress.

    So, yes, unpopular views which are considered unacceptable — to whatever agencies are involved — may be cast aside, disregarded, or even shut down.  This has been common in the history of science and medicine.  Consider Gallileo Gallilei, threatened by the church with being burnt at the stake (a far worse punishment than having your Facebook page removed!) for his dissident view that the earth orbited the sun.  Or consider Marshall and Warren’s theory that ulcers were caused not by stress and spicy food but by a bacterium, h. pylori; they were met with skepticism and criticism from the medical establishment, and it was years before their work was accepted (and won them a Nobel prize).

    Discovery of Galileo's Long-Lost Letter Shows He Edited His Heretical Ideas to Fool the Inquisition
    Galileo Galilei at the Inquisition. Source: Getty Images via Scientific American

    Don’t you agree that some censorship is necessary for the overall social good?  I wouldn’t want my grandkids exposed to snuff porn (I don’t want to be exposed to it myself).  Death threats are illegal and need to be taken down.  Cyber-bullying, the cause of so many young suicides, needs to be controlled.  Censorship of hate speech is acceptable to most of us.

    Overall, though, I think suppression of ideas is not a great idea.   That means that I have to put up with such things as Satanism, Flat Earthers, UFOlogists, and such, as well as anti-vaxxers and that psychiatrist who claims viruses don’t exist, because where do you draw the line?   Ultimately, enough evidence of the reality of the solar system piled up to convince the Catholic Church of their error.  Eventually, enough evidence of bacteria causing ulcers convinced the medical establishment (though there is still debate).  It is my contention that enough evidence already exists that the anti-vax movement contains substantial errors.  See the next point.

    3. Are these views correct or valid?  Debatable.

    This will be a central point of contention.  You hold that they are; I suggest that they are not.  We’ll probably spend a lot of time exchanging studies and evidence.

    Let’s take Rashid Buttar again as an example.  Called “the chelation evangelist”, he uses chelation for almost everything.  Yet I easily found recent studies showing that chelation is “little better than a placebo” for anything other than lead poisoning (and some other metals).  The Federal trade Commission, whose goal is “Protecting consumers and competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education”, went so far as to call this form of treatment fraudulent   and to levy charges against physicians who use it for anything other than lead. A more balanced treatment is in this article though it does stress that the major study supporting chelation for other conditions was poorly done and its findings only marginal.

    Coronavirus illustration – source unknown

    4. Are they a threat to the security of the nation?  Maybe.

    There is a possibility of a national threat, if a reduction in vaccinations leads to an upsurge in diseases made almost extinct by previous vaccination efforts.  Polio, smallpox, tetanus, mumps, diphtheria, rubella…the list of ills eradicated by vaccination is long, and represents tremendous gains in public health.

    The result of their return would be considerable suffering and death, along with stress on public health services. It is a bit scary to think that some parents would buy into the conspiracy theories to the point of putting their own children, and society as a whole, at risk of these diseases resurfacing. I consider this a legitimate concern, and in and of itself is sufficient to justify the censorship of the wilder “alternative” medicine claims..

    5. Are they a threat to the safety of the public?   Many fear so.

    Your right to expression may reasonably be restricted if it will clearly cause direct and imminent harm to an important social interest. The classic example is falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater and causing a stampede.  The question then becomes “Is shouting that vaccines are dangerous and nobody should get vaccinated” during a pandemic roughly equivalent to yelling “Fire!”?

    You mention  Dr Dolores Cahill, who was asked to resign as vice chair of the Scientific Committee of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).  She was asked to resign because one of her views on covid-19 — that people who recover are then “immune for life” after 10 days — is demonstrably false.  She simply cannot know how long immunity will last; the disease hasn’t been around all that long, and the new variants are still an unknown. We also know that people can get covid-19 twice.  Reinfections hint that immunity against COVID-19 may be fragile and wane relatively quickly, notes that article about covid-19 reinfection.  

    Cahill’s assertion that  “deaths and illnesses could have been prevented by extra vitamins” is a bit of a stretch. The Mayo Clinic, for example, in their article on covid-19 myths, says that vitamins do not directly prevent infection. My reading of the evidence I’ve seen is that they do not by themselves directly prevent covid-19, etc.

    Please note that I am not denying that vitamins and minerals play a vital role in our health, nor that they are essential in supporting a healthy immune system. (Belief that they may prevent illness is another story.  Faith can be a powerful healer. It’s just that science works whether you believe it or not.)

    Now you are welcome to ignore the facts showing that people don’t have life-long immunity, and you can disregard the Mayo Clinic and the many studies showing that vitamin therapy is ineffective as a direct preventative or cure, and you can deny that Cahill is wrong in her views — but if you do aren’t you just closing your mind to part of the evidence? 

    Lorraine again: I came across this letter from parents in U.S. arguing for exemption from child mandated vaccines.  I thought it was highly interesting about vaccine injury in general.  Speaks to how pharmaceutical companies have been convicted of fraud so many times.

    Here’s another point of agreement.   I am not at this time in favor of mandatory vaccination.  I won’t jump up and down and say, Lorraine, you MUST be vaccinated.  But by the same token, I’ll be really annoyed with you if you jump and down and say I MUSTN’T be.

    In the event of a more severe pandemic, with a higher infection rate and more severe mortality rate, I might come to view mandatory vaccination more favorably, with mandatory and enforced quarantine for those who refuse to be vaccinated. But I don’t consider covid-19 to be that severe.

    She goes on: This morning I located this:  statistics about covid 19 grouped by country.  Fascinating how the numbers are so radically different, based on what country you are in.  It certainly supports the view that covi is not a deadly virus but is a function of  your immune system.  People in the U.S. are very unhealthy, people in Japan are very healthy and have optimal levels of vitamin D, C and zinc.  These are proven, have won nobel prizes. 

    I consider the Journal of the American Medical Association a reputable source.  The article, which I read carefully, concludes that the high number of deaths in the US “may have been a result of several factors, including weak public health infrastructure and a decentralized, inconsistent US response to the pandemic.4,5 Limitations of this analysis include differences in mortality risk: the US population is younger but has more comorbidities compared with the other countries.” 

    So yes, Americans are less healthy than folks in other countries.  BUT– Nowhere in that article does it “support the view that [covid-19] is not a deadly virus”.   You are assuming facts not in evidence.   You’ll also have to direct me to the study proving Japanese have optimal levels of D, C, and Z, and the Nobel prize to which you refer.  Probably not this one. But I did try to find it.

    I also found this lengthy review of the literature on the effect of vitamins and minerals (especially zinc) on the immune system. It’s a long read, but worth the effort.  I note that many of the studies cited are for really young children, use low numbers of subjects and short treatment periods, and have other limitations.  There are a lot of vague conclusions such as “may represent a promising pharmacological tool” and “showing promise”and “could be a potential therapeutic approach to COVID-19” but that is just the usual scientific caution.  It looks pretty solid that having too little of these things increases your risk of getting covid-19 (and a whack of other illnesses!) and that ensuring you have enough might help prevent it in some folks (not everybody, those comorbidities get in the way).   Another JAMA article found vitamin D useless for treatment: “The study does not support the use of a high dose of vitamin D3 for treatment of moderate to severe COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.”  Probably evidence either way, here.

    That’s it for today.   I’ve certainly learned a lot.  We are not as far apart as I thought in a lot of things.  I recognize the value of vitamins and minerals as a preventative (and have in fact been taking a multivitamin and extra vitamin D since last March).  I am not in favor of mandatory vaccination.  There will probably be other areas too.


    Leave a reply

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations