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“Debate” and “censorship” vs. quality control

Efforts to hold COVID-19 disinformation-spreading physicians accountable are leading to increasing calls by cranks for a “debate” with them. This is a disinformation tactic, not an honest call for debate.

About a month ago, I wrote about how COVID-19 minimizers, deniers, cranks, antivaxxers, and grifters had been ramping up their demands for “debates” about COVID-19. Of course, I’ve long been pointing out how a favorite tactic of such cranks is to challenge a scientist or science advocate to a “live public debate” about the topic in question, whether it be the claim that vaccines cause autism (they don’t), whether HIV causes AIDS (it does), regarding “integrative medicine” or “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), or antivaxxers trying to trap me. Longtime readers know why quacks, cranks, pseudoscience-promoters, and conspiracy theorists almost always have a near-insurmountable advantage in these debates—”Gish gallop” anyone? —but, as I explain every time, there are other reasons why science deniers gravitate towards this particular tactic. Sometimes the motivations are dishonest, but more often they are not, being based instead on the false idea that such “debates” are a fair and democratic method to settle a question, whether there is a real scientific debate or not. (Almost always, there is not.)

At the time that I last wrote about “debates,” I thought that I wouldn’t have to bother writing about the topic of what I like to call “debate me, bro,” but, wow. I was mistaken! The reason is that COVID-19 cranks have been ratcheting up the demand for “debates” with scientists to 11 and taking that demand into ridiculous territory that even I can’t recall having seen before. This just goes to show that, while there might be nothing new under the sun and everything old is new again in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn’t mean that the pandemic has had no effect. Its effect, however, appears to have been to crank up the crazy to 11 with all of the older denialist tactics. I suspect that there’s another reason why these calls for “debate” from science denialists are becoming more ubiquitous than I can remember their ever having been before, specifically as a result of increasing calls from professionals (e.g., No License for Disinformation) and attempts to penalize the unprofessional behavior of physicians who practice COVID-19 quackery and spread misinformation about the pandemic, for example, their recent appearance on ABC News:

Admittedly, some of these calls are just self-promotion of the sort used by science denialists as long as I can remember. For example, one recent example comes from a longtime topic of this blog, past producer of segments for The Doctors turned antivaxxer, Del Bigtree, who was demanding a “debate” hosted by Joe Rogan:

There’s one thing that I note here. Del Bigtree obviously really, really, really wants to get on Joe Rogan’s podcast, because, of course he does. (What crank wouldn’t, given Rogan’s millions of viewers?) His obsequious praise of Rogan reaches goes from zero to nauseating in a matter of five seconds.

AIER: Come on, debate me!

More consistent with my suspicions, however, earlier this week Steve Kirsch (who was featured prominently in my more recent post about “debate me bros“) published a post on his Substack with the hilarious title, COVID-19 misinformation is a public health crisis but nobody is willing to stop it by debating us. Before I quote from this post, let me just stop for a moment to ask: How would scientists “debating” Kirsch’s motley crew of COVID-19 minimizers, quacks, cranks, antivaxxers, antimaskers, and grifters “stop” COVID-19 misinformation? No, seriously. My first thought reading the headline was: Delusions of grandeur, much, Steve? Then I read the tagline to his post: The California legislature has officially declared COVID-19 misinformation a public health CRISIS, yet the head of California’s HHS will do nothing to stop it. Neither will anyone else. And there you go. There’s the real reason, which will become apparent soon if you haven’t gotten it from the headline and the tagline:

It’s so easy to stop COVID-19 misinformation. Just debate the top misinformation spreaders. Problem solved. It will be obvious which side is the purveyor of false information.

Fact check this: No fact checker organization will debate us

I told PolitiFact that if they really wanted to stop misinformation, all they had to do was debate us. The PolitiFact Editor in Chief, Angie Holan, stopped replying to my emails at that point.

Fact check this: None of the public health officials will debate us

I don’t know of a single public health official who will debate our team. There are over 3,000 public health officials and they will not lift a finger to debate us and stop the misinformation. That’s irresponsible.

California officials are afraid to stop us

After I read this article in the California Globe:

The headline of the article? CA Lawmakers Propose Bill to Punish Doctors Who Speak Against COVID Treatment ‘Consensus’. When you look at it this way, Kirsch’s performative calls for “debate” serve more than just as a tactic to try to trap unwary experts into a rigged pseudodebate in which they would be overwhelmed by Gish galloping, appeals to emotion, and a veritable tsunami of misinformation, misrepresented and misinterpreted studies, and cherry picked data. It serves as a framing mechanism to portray himself (and, of course, all the “brave mavericks” who are supposedly “bucking” the COVID-19 “consensus”) as fearless and willing to face anyone, any time, on the intellectual field of battle, as compared to the public health science establishment, who are portrayed as cowardly and trying to “censor” these brave mavericks through law because they can’t win otherwise.

Debate me, bro!

Unsurprisingly, the article referenced by Kirsch comes from a conspiracy theory and misinformation publication and echoes the crank narrative about any attempt to discipline doctors who spread misinformation:

Even as more off-label drug uses are discovered, Orwellian California lawmakers are introducing legislation to silence physicians who speak out on issues directly impacting their patients’ well-being, as well as the treatment of the coronavirus.

Last week, Assembly Bill 2098 was introduced by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) to punish physicians and surgeons for “unprofessional conduct” for advocating for the potential benefits of early treatment with off-label drugs, or those who dare to ask questions about COVID vaccine safety.

This is quite the false equivalency here. Certainly there are a growing number of “off-label” uses being found for various drugs, and far be it from me to condemn the repurposing of old drugs for new indications. (After all, one of my main projects over the last 15 years or so has been to repurpose a drug for neurological conditions to be used to treat breast cancer.) However, the implication that these cranks try to make from the growing appreciation for how a number of old drugs can be repurposed gives away the real game:

Many drugs have other uses: Could common blood pressure medications help curb pancreatic cancer? It appears so. “New research suggests that commonly prescribed high blood pressure drugs may boost survival in patients,” MedicalXpress.com reports.

Botox injections are associated with the treatment of facial wrinkles. However Botox is used for many other conditions, including spasticity, eye twitch, neck contracture, migraines, and overactive bladder, and for the treatment of severe underarm sweating.

Most people think multi-purpose drug use is amazingly good news and cost-effective.

But as we saw during the two years of the COVID pandemic, off-label drugs that physicians across the country wanted to use for early therapeutic treatment of the coronavirus were disparaged, banned and even destroyed.

Let me just point out something about the example cited in the article, namely the observation that ACE inhibitors and ARB inhibitors, which are normally used as blood pressure medications, can improve survival in pancreatic cancer. Naturally, I went to the study itself. The first thing I noticed about it is that it was not a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, but rather a retrospective cohort study that mined an administrative health records database. That alone makes it not particularly informative, given the potential for confounding that even careful controls probably didn’t eliminate. Worse, though, the decreases in the risk of dying in a given time period weren’t that impressive (on the order of 13-20%, but, tellingly, that benefit disappeared completely after three years. While this study might provide a rationale to see if these drugs can be repurposed to treat pancreatic cancer, more likely this study suggests some sort of confounding effect not detected in the analysis. It’s an intriguing study, but far from a slam dunk. At best, it’s preliminary.

You know where this is going, of course:

In Spring of 2020, The Federal Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, and some state attorneys general launched a coordinated censorship campaign to prevents medical doctors and other healthcare providers from sharing their extensive knowledge about how to stay healthy during the pandemic using hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin, and some natural treatments like vitamin C and D, Melatonin and Zinc.

Because, if you believe these cranks, just because repurposed ACE inhibitors might have a statistically detectable effect on pancreatic cancer mortality based on a retrospective study, then we have to take seriously all the claims by COVID-19 quacks that repurposed drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin are miracle cures for COVID-19 and prevent disease progression as well or better than vaccines.

But, no. According to cranks like Steve Kirsch and Katy Grimes (who wrote the article cited by Kirsch):

Is this the same game plan for California with Sen. Pan’s and Assemblyman Low’s SB 1018 and AB 2098? The State of California, Department of Public Health and Health and Human Services, which is trying to drag out the pandemic into a third year, is now trying to prescribe all medical care and treatments?

Just imagine a more tyrannical, ruthless and oppressive DMV the next time you seek medical care, should these bills become law.

This sort of argument is a hoary old canard beloved of quacks and antivaxxers going back as long as I can remember (and very likely to long before I ever started paying attention to these issues) that tries to portray any and all attempts at the professional regulation of physicians that would impose penalties up to and including taking away their medical licenses as tyrannical assaults on physician autonomy and medical freedom. Unfortunately, as I have noted before, it’s not just quacks, antivaxxers, and their supporters who find this framing attractive. All too many physicians who really should know better are threatened by attempts by state medical boards and professional societies to enforce professionalism by mandating penalties for doctors who use their professional status to promote misinformation, characterizing them as “cancel culture” or “censorship” rather than what they really are: quality control.

What, exactly, would the two California bills, SB 1018 and AB 2098, do if passed into law? Let’s go to Senator Richard Pan’s website:

Today, Senator Dr. Richard Pan and Assemblymember Evan Low introduced Senate Bill 1018 and Assembly Bill 2098 to combat the spread of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and protect public health. SB 1018, introduced by Senator Dr. Richard Pan, requires online platforms utilizing algorithms to publically report how product features interact with datasets used by algorithms to score or rank content, and requires disclosure of data for legitimate research purposes. AB 2098, introduced by Assemblymember Evan Low, enshrines into state law that licensed physicians and surgeons disseminating or promoting misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 constitutes unprofessional conduct that should result in disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.

I’ll be honest. From the text of SB 1018, I must admit that I don’t entirely understand how this bill would do what Sen. Pan says that it will do, given that the text seems mostly to involve putting some teeth into requiring privacy policies and allowing users to request changes to personally identifiable information. (Perhaps someone more knowledgeable in the relevant topics could educate me.) My lack of understanding of this bill aside, social media algorithms that preferentially amplify misinformation, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories have indeed been a huge problem that has greatly contributed to where we are today with respect to the dominance of misinformation in the public space, and any effort of government to rein in such misinformation is always portrayed by conspiracy theorists as “censorship,” whether it is or not—and it’s almost always not.

I’m more interested in AB 2098 anyway, because it’s exactly the sort of thing I have long been calling upon states to do, which leads me to Section 2 of the bill:

It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate or promote misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

And:

(b) The board shall consider the following factors prior to bringing a disciplinary action against a licensee under this section:

(1) Whether the licensee deviated from the applicable standard of care.

(2) Whether the licensee intended to mislead or acted with malicious intent.

(3) Whether the misinformation or disinformation was demonstrated to have resulted in an individual declining opportunities for COVID-19 prevention or treatment that was not justified by the individual’s medical history or condition.

(4) Whether the misinformation or disinformation was contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus to an extent where its dissemination constitutes gross negligence by the licensee.

I’ve been arguing for a very long time that spreading misinformation about health that can harm patients, such as quackery and antivaccine misinformation, should be offenses for which state medical boards should have the power to sanction physicians and even to take away their licenses to practice medicine. As a result, while I find Rep. Low’s bill to be a step in the right direction, I have to argue yet again that (1) doesn’t go far enough and (2) state medical boards should already have the power to sanction doctors who behave unprofessional by promoting dangerous misinformation and quackery about health without the need to pass a specific bill about COVID-19 misinformation. After all, why should it be only COVID-19 misinformation and care that deviates from the standard of care and potentially harms patients? Why should it be just COVID-19 misinformation that leads patients to forego safe and effective vaccines and therapy? After all, how often have I discussed alternative cancer cures peddled by doctors (e.g., Stanislaw Burzynski) that lured patients away from effective cancer therapies, thereby dooming them? Before the pandemic, how often did I argue that doctors who promote antivaccine misinformation and actively discourage their own patients from receiving standard-of-care recommended vaccines should lose their medical licenses? The answer: More times than I can remember.

My suspicion, though, is that increasing efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 misinformation by physicians and its amplification by social media platforms are the primary reason why ridiculous calls for “debate” are proliferating more and more. I can’t resist quoting Steve Kirsch’s letter to Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, to show you what I mean:

In House Resolution No. 74 of the 2021–22 Regular Session, the California State Assembly declared health misinformation to be a public health crisis, and urged the State of California to commit to appropriately combating health misinformation and curbing the spread of falsehoods that threaten the health and safety of Californians.

To that end, I am requesting you and the team at HHS referenced in this article in the California Globe debate us. (“Are they referring to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s full-time team combating COVID propaganda?” Just last week Gov. Newsom admitted he already has “a team of people at HHS battling in the trenches and on social media trying to push back,” the Globe reported.”)

This is the fastest and easiest way to stop the spread of misinformation.

You can assemble any team you want to debate us.

On our end, I will deliver pretty much all of the world’s top misinformation spreaders.

For example, we believe over 100,000 people have been killed by these vaccines and we have plenty of independent data sources to support that. That would be a primary debate point.

Please let us know your response.

I have cc’d Katy Grimes who wrote the California Globe article.

Please cc her in your response.

-steve

I’ll express some amusement (and give Kirsch a little bit of credit for irony) in how Kirsch so enthusiastically embraces how he and his “debate me bro” cronies have been called the top spreaders of disinformation as a strategy to try to convince Secretary Ghaly that just “debating” them would somehow shut down disinformation, even as I laugh at how he takes it further in his Substack article:

If California Assemblyman Evan Low and California Senator Dr. Richard Pan honestly want to stop misinformation, they should simply tell Mark Ghaly and his staff to publicly challenge us to a debate. If he refuses, then Low and Pan should challenge us to a debate so we can show the world who the real misinformation spreaders are.

Why aren’t they doing that? That’s the fastest way to stop misinformation worldwide.

The answer is simple: because they know they’d lose. That’s why they create bills to censor people with different views.

He also can’t help but portray an unwillingness of any faculty member at MIT to invite him to give a talk there as evidence of this cowardice:

MIT won’t allow a COVID-19 scientific debate on campus: they don’t want students to know that there might be another side of the story. 

At first, they told me I needed an MIT faculty sponsor for my talk on the MIT campus.

After I told them I have an MIT faculty member who will sponsor the talk and I wanted to know the next steps, I was told: “I would also like to remind you that MIT’s policies on campus gatherings remain in force.  Those currently include mandatory masking and the requirement that all event attendees must be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.”

Great, so none of us qualify.

So much for allowing an open debate on the MIT campus.

I’m guessing that Kirsch was probably well aware of MIT’s requirements when he issued his challenge for a “scientific debate” and therefore knew that, even if he found a hapless faculty member to invite him, the “debate” would never happen.

Again, this strategy is nothing new. I’ve seen its like going way, way back. The idea is for the science denialist to contrast his supposed openness to “debate” with a portrayal of attempts to rein in disinformation, no matter the specifics of those attempts, as being “censorship” and cowardice. This sort of framing lets the crank claim victory no matter what the response is. Leaving aside the utter ridiculousness of the very idea that a “debate” as proposed by someone like Kirsch could shut down misinformation, if the challenge is ignored, Kirsch can claim victory by saying that “they” refuse to debate him because they are afraid. If the challenge is (foolishly) accepted, then Kirsch and his merry band of COVID-19 cranks can Gish gallop, cherry pick, misinterpret and misrepresent studies, and, yes, lie to their hearts’ content while elevating their status to appearing to be worthy of being on the same stage as real scientists and public health officials. It’s like this:

Although this comic is not about pseudoscience and COVID-19 quackery, the principle of bogus challenges to “debate me” are the same.
And, of course, if an expert refuses the disingenuous challenge to “debate me,” that expert will be portrayed as a coward. Same as it ever was.

I’ll conclude by reminding my readers that these calls for “debate” are a tactic, nothing more. They are a mechanism that promotes science denial by giving the false appearance that it is a legitimate “alternative” viewpoint and elevates science deniers, while letting them spread their misinformation. Certainly, such “debates” are not a means of “ending misinformation.” Quite the contrary, all truth does not come from live public debates. In the end, I view the increasingly desperate calls for “debates” by people like Kirsch to be evidence that efforts to rein in misinformation and hold disinformation-spewing physicians accountable, such as No License for Disinformation, are having an effect.

Again, refusing to “debate” cranks is not cowardice. It’s wisdom. Holding physicians responsible for the quackery and disinformation they spread is not “censorship.” It’s quality control.

Debate with me
This is the reaction that we should be seeing from cranks who challenge experts to “debate.”

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

84 replies on ““Debate” and “censorship” vs. quality control”

Ah, the perfectly hermetically sealed circle of drama:
*They won’t debate me, they have nothing
*The FOIAs didn’t generate anything, what are they hiding
*Sure, there’s no evidence you are paid by Big X… obviously that’s evidence of the conspiracy… and Paul Thacker will make it up anyway

And round and round we go. Where we stop, nobody knows.

Some interesting points not only in the article, but also the comments. All I can add, is that debates on tv are worthless for another reason – tv itself. As the comedian dara o’obrian points out in a sketch, tv ‘debates’ are always meant to be circuses, not an exercise in intellectual resolution. His comedic (but disturbingly accurate example) is a qualified scientist discussing the cosmos, while his ‘opponent’ is a guy who believes the sky is a carpet with stars stuck on it. The punchline is, that not just that the presenter claims this gives ‘balance’ to the debate, but that the presenter sides with the crank argument, giving that ‘side’ weight over the science. To add further, um, ‘balance’, the audience will often be loaded with people supporting the ‘alternative’ so the presenter can trot out the well worn, ‘well the audience doesn’t agree with that’ when the genuine scientist takes down the wingnut view. Alternately, ‘the audience seems to be equally divided’ is trotted out when a non vetted audience shows they conclusively back the logical viewpoint. There is no conspiracy theory here, controversy attracts viewers, ratings generate revenue, and controversial shows top the ratings charts. The fact that controversial shows generally peddle right wing ‘common sense’ ideology also helps. None of the above though, contributes to worthy debate.

The doctrine of “both sides” between supporters of Flat Earth and Round Earth obviously means the Earth is a cube.

“the vaccine turned me into a newt! I got better, though”

Perhaps calling for a debate or actually being in a debate fulfills another need of anti-vaxxers, alties and contrarians: it gets them attention by an audience which may be what they’ve been seeking as performers or experts of note for decades. Some of those I survey have histories involving more traditional avenues to applause: Del Bigtree was an actor and singer in his younger days before his turn as a television producer; Mike Adams took part in “comedy improv” classes where he perfected his ‘ethnic’ accents** and voice acting “skills” and also worked in college musicals before his well-known “music videos” at NN; Gary Null produces many histrionic “educational” films and once tried to get one produced by Hollywood studios ( about Black movie stars). So much of these guys’ presentations are stagey and melodramatic as are their writings.

A debate would allow them to pull out all of the stops on emotional outbursts and disregard of facts as they do anything to get the audience’s attention. Notice that some of the experts they sponsor might have been once well-regarded physicians or academics but they instead choose forums like podcasts and altie “radio shows” which allow them to behave and speak in a manner totally unknown in scientific journals and conferences. Social media often serves as an alternative to live attention whoring and the most followed and tweeted actors are frequently not the most reasoned or factual. When so-called experts mimic influencers and pop celebrities their so-called expertise might indeed be
questionable.

** close to slurs actually

I truly appreciate any compliment from you.

-btw- I can imagine how these poseurs con people with a real world example: in secondary school, I had one year of “earth science” which was half geology and half astronomy. Over the years I travelled observing faults, valleys, cones etc. on the ground and from planes and someone gave me a university level text photography book of geologic features ( plus I dated an astronomer). I’m sure I could cobble together enough technical terms and theories to fool people who are even less informed than I am BUT there is no reason to pretend to be expert in fields where you have only a smattering of knowledge.

Some of the people I survey have very low levels of expertise in life science and psychology but they vastly exaggerate their level of knowledge to impress their audience: either self-taught or having a few courses in nutrition or altie BS, they endeavor to critique the whole of medicine and public health! PRN’s “scholar in residence”, Richard Gale, who is touted as having an “advanced degree” from the U of Chicago, discusses how vaccines/ meds are dangerous or don’t work BUT his linked in says his degrees are in comparative religion/ Buddhism and that he worked for a biotech company. He might have had a few courses in bio and/ or his position was business- not science- related.
We see this with trolls all of the time. Formal education is not just information but knowing how to evaluate it.

Agree. I think this is spot on.

Kirsch may not be a preformer, but I suspect he’s used to being respected and sought after as the person with the hand on the money, and someone previously acknowledged as especially smart, and I suspect he’s looking for some of that acknowledgment again.

Narcissistic and sociopathic perfectly describes these people, as does a phrase which is relatively new to me: main character syndrome.

Indeed. There is very little about antivax/GOP death cults which cannot be sufficiently explained by a Cluster B diagnosis—and off the Malignant end of the chart at that.

Treat them as you would vampires; there really isn’t a difference.

Del was in show business? He must have played the hot air in “Around the World in 80 Days”.

@ Dr Chris:

Yes, he was in Hair and other plays, had a band with his wife and even made artsy films ( you can watch the one with her in a bathtub free- Sex and Sensuality – or a similar lamebrained title see his IMDb).
I thought I once saw him in a commercial for an arthritis OTC med. His parents also- as well as woo and religion.

Another information-free diatribe. But hey, you wowed us with creative use of the words “crank” (18 times) “quack” (14 times) and “misinformation” (38 times). If you keep using those words maybe, just maybe, the next time will be the one where they magically become true. So you don’t want to engage in an in-person debate. Instead of impressing us with your rich vocabulary, how about presenting some actual evidence that Steve Kirsch is wrong? It ought to be easy for you, being a medical “expert” and all. Don’t like Steve Kirsch? Pick someone else.

This won’t happen for the same reason the CDC won’t release data. You can bet that if the data supported their recommendations, it would be front-page news. Similarly, if Orac had counter evidence he would present it rather than crying “Misinformation!” then walking away as though he’s won the argument.

I would encourage your readers to compare this blog to that of Igor Chudov. https://igorchudov.substack.com/ Read the comments there, and people—including the author—are actually engaging in a discussion of data. The priority is to uncover the truth as opposed to protecting a narrative that is increasingly frail and unsupportable.

Igor chudov? He and his “popular math site” are quite the jokes. The site is poorly organized and the “solutions” to posted problems — well, they’re as likely to be wrong as they are correct.

Given his crappy reputation in an area he supposedly studied, it’s probably a safe bet that his comments about anything related to covid and vaccines will be worthless. The fact that they’re on substack supports that possibility, and the fact that chaos clown is pushing really supports it.

Chudov’s website made me laugh out loud, particularly this post:

https://igorchudov.substack.com/p/dna-transcribed-from-pfizer-mrna?s=r

As someone trained in molecular biology, I could immediately see that he had no idea what he was talking about when he was discussing the findings.

I might have to have some fun with that post next week. Chudov thinks he knows how to use BLAST and do homology searches. It’s hilarious! I used to use BLAST all the time, and I can recognize someone who doesn’t know what he’s seeing when he does BLAST searches.

“increasingly frail and unsupportable.”

Has been for decades according to anti-vaxxers. Just can’t seem to land that finishing blow.

Very instructive post though, CI. The way you asked for proof, after being given it multiple times over your infestation period, was a masterful debating technique. Never admit that your opponent is right, even if they are.

Never admit that your opponent is right, even if they are.

That is, of course, yet another reason why “debating” cranks in such a forum is almost always pointless at best and counterproductive at worst.

The “search” function on this blog works pretty well: if you use it you can find several pieces from this year alone which address the inaccuracies of what Kirsch claims. And that’s just here, as there are many other critiques of Kirsch to be found elsewhere.

This is assuming that you want to look, of course.

Another hand waving post and not that original. Me, I expected more quack counts because cranks now get paid!. BTW, that means more quacks gonna be in the market. It is absolutely worth counting. Get used to it. Thanks ORAC!

You know as well as I, the Qanon just support dumb for Choas. Do you support Qanon philosophy CI? You know, Comet Ping Pong and the unsupportable BS that makes the weak minded agitate?

My Rating: You are so informationally unreliable leading to now, nothing worth an argue or study. You don’t even suggest a solution to a problem basically.

You are not qualified to provide information other than your opinion. As you know, opinions are like AH, everyone has one and they all stink.

I think that there are a lot of debates that need to be had. Why the sky is blue? Whether a Harley would beat a Fireblade round Brands Hatch? All of these are questions that can be settled with a good shouting match and a lot of blather.

Agreed, but surely the best way to settle the question is with a debate? Results are less important than words if you believe the anti-vaxxers. 😀

Orac when you first wrote about the vaccine and operation ‘warp speed’, should you have been “quality controlled” because you express doubts about Trump or the Moderna executive who was in charge of the program? Should some regulatory agency or other offical body have been able to take your ‘misinformation’ off of the internet because it questioned the direction of science of the covid vaccine? Should your research be subjected to what the consensus of science says about repurposing medication?

Ed, you do know the difference between concern about potential problems with as-yet undeveloped vaccines, and spreading lies and distortions about vaccines that have established records of safety and efficacy?

Yes, I did write about Operation Warp Speed…in May 2020. This was before large clinical trials of vaccines, before the vaccines had been rolled out and hundreds of millions of doses had been administered with an impressive safety record. In case anyone is wondering what I wrote nearly two years ago…

https://respectfulinsolence.com/2020/05/28/operation-warp-speed-are-we-rushing-covid-19-vaccine-development/

Given the time and who was in charge, I don’t think my concerns were unwarranted. As things evolved, I changed my mind in response to evidence, science, and facts. I also find it amusing that antivaxxers like to portray me as some sort of fanatical provaccine advocate who never, ever admits the possibility that a vaccine can cause harm. Yet, nearly two years ago, I expressed concern about the then in development COVID-19 vaccines.

Of course, pointing to concerns from two years ago now as though they still apply now, after large phase III clinical trials and hundreds of millions of doses, is fundamentally dishonest.

Orac
Your response shows me that your original opposition to the vaccine was more of a political reaction, by your statement “Given the time and who was in charge, I don’t think my concerns were unwarranted” I am curious that you can claim to have read the science and changed your opposition, when the FDA and Pfizer are just now beginning to release the actual data that was used including the Pfizer adverse reactions report on the clinical trials.

Like much of the response to the Covid, that was not based on science by on politics. The 6 foot rule was a made up distance that was a compromised number that the policy makers and the scientist could agree on. The plastic barriers and the continual use to disinfectants on surfaces, even when in March of 2020 the science showed that it was an air borne virus and died pretty quickly on surfaces. The scientist knew that out side was probably the safest places to be as sunlight killed the virus within 1-5 seconds that science was proven in April of 2020, yet we closed playground, beaches, bike and running trails and politicians demanded we lock ourselves inside. We made people social distance at an airport, 6 feet apart, until they got on the airplane then they could actual touch each other, and pack together closer than a rock concert.

Right now we have 800-1500 deaths a day from Covid, about where we were in February/March of 2020 when all the restrictions started, yet even the states that had the most restrictive mandate have removed them, those decisions were not made based on the science or pseudoscience that was used to make those mandates. Or wearing a mask to go into a restaurant until you reached your table, then you could take it off (does the virus know to quit infecting someone that sits down) there are all kinds of similar rules. And 2 years into this we find that cloth mask are just ‘decorations’, which was known by the CDC for months. Health officials knew after 3 months that the 2 biggest factors in morbidity were age and obesity, and what did the politicians do, they dumped covid patients in nursing homes and closed gyms, yet kept fast food business and liquor store open.

Like the long list of politicians who would not take the vaccine because it was a ‘Trump” vaccine. In the long run with so much of the ‘science’ in the hands of politicians and more and more people are reading the actual science papers that contradict what they were told by those in charge (scientist and media). People’s trust in science has started to erode and that when the next health crisis happens it will be more difficult to control.

“I am curious that you can claim to have read the science and changed your opposition, when the FDA and Pfizer are just now beginning to release the actual data that was used including the Pfizer adverse reactions report on the clinical trials.”

I assume he read the science by reading the papers and supporting data that have been periodically released by Pfizer (and other vaccine manufacturers) and the bodies reviewing the submitted data since November 2020. For example, Pfizer’s peer-reviewed interim paper on the safety and efficacy of their vaccine published on December 31, 2020: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa2034577 That’s what convinced me to get my first shot on Jan 15 2021.

Which brings up a very good question. Why are you lying about the data?

W.Kevin Vicklund

Your study was funded by Pfizer and used researchers paid for by Pfizer. Would you quote a science paper funded by tobacco interest, conducted by scientist who were paid by the tobacco industry ?

Independent Israeli studies have shown that the vaccine is around 40-50% effective is stopping the transmission.

timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/health-ministry-says-covid-vaccine-is-only-40-effective-at-halting-transmission/

sun light kills covid virus.
scitechdaily.com/experiments-show-sunlight-destroys-covid-virus-8-times-faster-than-scientists-thought/

and surface transmission of covid (1in 10,000 your chances of dying from the poisons in the disinfectants is probably greater
webmd.com/lung/how-long-covid-19-lives-on-surfaces

6 foot rule was ‘arbitrary’

forbes.com/sites/graisondangor/2021/09/19/cdcs-six-foot-social-distancing-rule-was-arbitrary-says-former-fda-commissioner/?sh=5441616ce8e6

and a quote from that article of Dr. Scott Gottlieb

“the six-foot social distancing rule created to slow the spread of the coronavirus was “arbitrary” and has decreased confidence in the pandemic response.”

What was I lying about?

You’re using the perfectionist fallacy.

Six feet is better than two feet, but not as good as eight feet, and we don’t have a really good distance/risk curve because it’s so hard to test. Therefore, we shouldn’t distance.

Lockdowns save countless lives, but they also are really disruptive, and are therefore used sporadically. Therefore, we shouldn’t even bother ever having a lockdown.

Cloth masks protect others better than they protect you, and they were all you could get for a long time, therefore, we should never wear a cloth mask.

Transmission via surface was once thought to be much more likely, therefore, we should never clean our surfaces.

You’re safer in the open air, therefore, you should never take precautions in the open air.

You have to take off the mask to eat, therefore, you should take off your mask when the wait staff approaches you.

The recommendations have changed as the data has changed, therefore, we should ignore the current best data.

The 6 foot rule is arbitrary in the sense that the rule is slightly different in different countries. In the US, it’s 6 feet (1.8 metres). I the UK it’s 6 feet or 2 metres (yes, I know they’re not the same). It the Netherlands and Australia it’s 1.5 metres (about 5 feet).

In Australia, at times we also had additional capacity limits on shops and other public venues of 1 person per 4 square metres. The shops and venues would display their maximum capacity, and would sometimes have staff supervising entry. The 1.5 metre rule would continue to apply inside.

It’s a compromise between level of separation and inconvenience to the public.

Ed, see that part of my post that are in quote marks? That’s what you said. You made the false claim that Pfizer and the FDA are “just now beginning to release the actual data.” My post pointed out that Pfizer began releasing the data way back in November of 2020. Your statement is clearly a lie.

Christinerose
I will by-pass your reductio ad absurdum argument. “Transmission via surface was once thought to be much more likely, therefore, we should never clean our surfaces.”
or “You’re safer in the open air, therefore, you should never take precautions in the open air.” How do you ever leave your house or step in the shower or even sleep (1 in 8 people die in their sleep) with that precaution.

Except one I can not by pass, lock downs don’t save ‘countless lives” at best the research shows they save about .2% (that is point 2%) or in simple terms about 2,000 people. Mean while drug over doses, untreated cancers, untreated heart problems and other untreated health issues because of your lock downs have killed 100,000’s (drug over dose deaths jumped from 50,000 to over 100,000 in one year because of closures of treatment centers due to ‘lock downs’).

Your example of eating and face masking wearing is laughable. Does the virus know when to stop spreading just because you are eating? if you put your face mask on in a restaurant because a wait staff person was walking by, you might never eat.

The recommendations have not changed as the data changed, the recommendations only changed when the politics change, as I pointed out, on March 4th there were 1,400 covid deaths, that was the same number of death two years ago when everyone was masking up and closing down, now everyone is taking off their mask and opening up. We have accepted the risk of covid and are moving on with our lives, the peltzman effect.

If you want to wear your mask, be fearful of going outside, disinfect everything in the world, lock down in your house and never be closer then 8 to 10 feet from someone else, I don’t think anyone would stop you, just don’t ask other to join in your neurosis/psychosis

@Ed You of course do not cite your best study of lockdown. Besides of millions of people is a lot, would you agree ? Do not give a percentage, give a number of people saved.

“If you want to wear your mask, be fearful of going outside, disinfect everything in the world, lock down in your house and never be closer then 8 to 10 feet from someone else, I don’t think anyone would stop you, just don’t ask other to join in your neurosis/psychosis”

Are you taking the piss? Are you really expecting to be taken seriously when you STILL don’t understand that these measures are to protect OTHER people as well? You’re not being brave when you stand close and breath in people’s faces and never disinfect your hands. You’re being careless of other people. No one will trust you to act responsibly when you actually do have covid symptoms because you can’t behave responsibly when you don’t.

Botox injections are associated with the treatment of facial wrinkles. However Botox is used for many other conditions, including spasticity, eye twitch, neck contracture, migraines, and overactive bladder, and for the treatment of severe underarm sweating

What this bozo doesn’t seem to realize is that there is no obvious biologically plausible reason why ivermectin, a chlorine channel blocker when used for its intended purpose, should be useful as an antiviral agent. The biological plausibility of the listed uses for botox, with the possible exceptions of sweating and migraine, is very conspicuous..That isn’t to say that a drug can’t have different mechanisms of action in terms of microbial inhibition, but his botox example is remarkably badly chosen.

In fairness, there is a “sort-of” biological plausibility in that ivermectin can have antiviral effects in cell culture. Of course, it turns out that this only happens at very high concentrations not safely achievable in human plasma, and that’s where the implausibility comes from.

It also seems to have an immunomodulatory effect; but that has been tested, by accident, in this pandemic and it has no beneficial effects.

Just ask the guy on the vent with the packs of ivermectin in his belongings on the table next to him I have down the hall…

Similarly, creationists often want biologists to debate evolution. Apart from indulging in the Gish Gallop, the creationists have a reputation for lying and misrepresentation and it is very difficult for an honest person to counter these on the spur of the moment. For example, Duane Gish claimed in a debate that frog DNA was very similar to human DNA. He promised to provide his opponent with the reference to this the following morning. Fifteen years later he has still not obliged. The most charitable explanation is that he overheard part of a conversation and missed the next sentence which was, ‘The technician kissed the frog who turned into a handsome prince’.

A reminder about the flaming hypocrisy of antivaxers and other misinformation spreaders complaining about “censorship”, via Peter Bowditch on the Millenium Project. This is from a 2012 post, but still relevant today:

“Remember that these people claim absolute freedom of speech to spread lies about vaccination and squeal their heads off at any attempt to criticise them as if criticism is censorship. It is further evidence of their hypocrisy that they have been engaged for more than a year in a concerted campaign of complaining to Facebook about posts, making false claims of copyright violation and causing people’s accounts to be suspended or even cancelled. A few weeks back all the administrators of the Stop the AVN Facebook group were suddenly locked out of Facebook following a mass complaint. I was one of the lucky ones as all I had to do was identify myself with my mobile phone number to get back in. Others were not so fortunate, with bans ranging from days to weeks, with at least one person having his account cancelled.”

“These people are pathetic, but they join a long tradition. In all the time I’ve been running this site I have almost never had anyone challenge me by providing evidence to show that I am wrong. Lots of legal threats, copyright claims, trademark claims and so on. Anything to silence criticism rather than respond to it.”

Kirsch and others could engage in honest online discussion with their critics but choose to avoid it. Why do they feel threatened by the idea of genuine debate, free of interruptions, biased moderators and Gish galloping?

Debates are useful only for exploring those vitally important matters of opinion.

Is key lime pie better than lemon meringue pie?

For settling facts, there is science.

“Is key lime pie better than lemon meringue pie?”

Yes.

I have posted 195 references on my website that prove it.

FYI
Regulars who expressed concern about Narad can be assured that HE LIVES! I read his recent contributions and he appears to be well enough to eat. AND I warily venture, possibly no longer in that tropical place. I cannot tell you exactly how I figured it out but it IS Narad.
Maybe he’ll grace us with a visit.

Just sort of doing a drive by ..

Interesting that antivaxer’s and their hired supporters just won’t ever accept their wrongfulness, even though, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence shows their evidence/statements to be completely unproven — really vaccination caused 100,000 deaths (Down from what — 1,000,000 from the last exorbitance)? Not a legitimate debating point and already a boring talking point. 100,000 is a new number to me — has it been evaluated by professionals? Very unlikely.

Did we not have a debate about evolution and the supporting evidence like 100 years ago? Scientific debate seems to be going on alive and well in the scientific community. There is ample room for debate with provided evidence for inspection seems to me.

Anyway — I’m a patriot because I hate my government that makes me wear pants, has concerns for my health, and decides what really is freedom for each citizen.

Thanks again for the blog post. I will now be dodging truckers.

“Interesting that antivaxer’s and their hired supporters just won’t ever accept their wrongfulness”

Your mistake is thinking that they care. They don’t. The only thing they care about is Means to Power. Anything they can weaponize and use against you, they will—and there is little they cannot.

You are trying to predict their moves as in a clever game of chess. Let me save you the trouble:

The will ram all the pieces in your mouth so you choke on them. They will fold the board in half and stab you in the throat with it. And after that they will hop in their pickup trucks and drive over your head till it’s crushed. They will do whatever helps them win.

I will say it again: learn about Cluster B personality disorders—(malignant) narcissism and psychopathy in particular—and the abuse dynamic between them and their victims.

Abusers don’t win by abusing you. They win by getting you to apologize for it.

In other anti-vax news…

Ben Collins ( NBC) discusses anti-vax disinformation on twitter, Telegram saying that the reason for The War was to destroy Fauci’s biolabs in Ukraine to cover up crimes… so Putin follows CDC marching orders? Who knew?

“the reason for The War was to destroy Fauci’s biolabs in Ukraine to cover up crimes”

That’s been a popular refrain around here (Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo over to Lake Michigan and back). Probably other places in MI too but I haven’t been outside the area for a bit. Some of the people pushing it on FB have “secret maps” that show where Fauci’s labs are located.

In additional anti-vax news….

AoA today: Jameson can’t seem to fathom why Covid restrictions, rules and mandates are being
eased/ curtailed by governments, businesses and schools so suddenly. Was it the Canadian truckers? Is it anticipated US elections?
What in the world could it be, oh you wonder of cluelessness?

This reminds me of the flat-earth nonsense. These people genuinely believe that there is some kind of equivalence between a delusional belief and a scientifically validated fact. They actually believe the crap that they believe. It’s beyond delusion and into total psychopathy. Why anyone would bother wasting time debating these lunatics is beyond comprehension.

Well, in the Netherlands the antivaxxers and covid-minimisers now are supporting Putin in his war against Oekraïne. Of course, we have a dictator and Putin is a nice democrat, according to this idiots.

There is some speculation Warnie’s two bouts of COVID-19 (delta followed by omicron) may have contributed to his heart failure.

Put against that, Warnie’s diet was notoriously unhealthy, his weight fluctuated as he frequently went on crash diets, he drank and he smoked. COVID-19 vaccines would be a long way down the list of risk factors you might want to look at.

Warne lived a far from healthy lifestyle, but he could really turn a ball.

So the head of the CDC gets her information from CNN.

“I can tell you where I was when the CNN feed came that it was 95% effective, the vaccine. So many of us wanted to be hopeful, so many of us wanted to say, okay, this is our ticket out, right, now we’re done.”

livestream.com/accounts/7945443/events/10161457/videos/229680766

In November 2020, when that data was submitted, she was not director of CDC. Why do you think she wouldn’t be watching media?

It’s a lot better than getting her news from Faux News, that’s for sure. You did know that she wasn’t head of the CDC when the CNN report on the vaccines was released in Nov 2020, right? https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2022/mar/07/facebook-posts/dr-rochelle-walensky-referenced-cnn-report-2020-sh/

Walensky’s press secretary, Jason McDonald, confirmed to PolitiFact that she was referring to the initial news from Pfizer and BioNTech that studies showed their COVID-19 vaccine to be 95% effective, which the companies announced to the world on Nov. 18, 2020.

On that date, Walensky was not working for the CDC, so it makes sense that she heard the news about the vaccine from CNN or other news outlets, just like the rest of us.

Walensky served as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School when then-President-elect Joe Biden nominated her to lead the CDC. She officially started the director job on Jan. 20, 2021.

“Walensky served as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School”
So she didn’t know about the study until she was watching TV, was she so far out of the loop on the latest medical information ? Either way you look at it, its not a good look.

Dorit is this how you get your up to date teaching materials on case law ….. CNN

There’s nothing wrong with doctors hearing news. They would, of course, be expected to also look at the study, but I’m not sure why you think hearing about something in the news first is an issue. Again, doctors and scientists are expected to look at an actual study, but there’s nothing wrong about first hearing about it in the news; it’s a valid way to get information fast.

Yes, I sometimes hear about new cases in the news – and then I go look them up. Like studies, not all cases are sent on a general blast to all law professors or lawyers, and not everybody knows of all cases. There’s just too much.

If this is what you need to latch onto, I hope you consider that you do not know enough about professional consumption of information to actually second guess experts, and you may want to approach this from a position of asking sincere questions, to help you learn more.

If this is what you need to latch onto

This is what the conspiratorially minded do. There is a quite easy and simple reason why someone outside Pfizer, BioNTech or the CDC would first hear the results of the study from the news. That is because the data at that point were not available to anyone else.

Pfizer announced the results of the study at 6:59 am on November 18, 2020. CNN had a report no later than 11:12 am on November 18, 2020. By what means do you propose Walensky should have been expected to know about the outcome of the trial in that 5 hour 13 minute window? Keep in mind that Pfizer didn’t finalize its submission to the FDA until 2 days later, and the pre-print of the study wasn’t available until sometime after that.

Sources:
https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-conclude-phase-3-study-covid-19-vaccine
https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-11-18-20-intl/h_29e1d27d2b302bf23043f30e6e1b0fe7

TLDR: more evidence anti-vaxxers don’t understand linear time

Dorit

I am a CPA and partner in a large mid-west accounting company.
Our company subscribes to 3 major accounting news consolidation, news feeds, that are updated every day. Our associates have access to additional sources in various specialties and of course membership in CPA organizations that conduct research. We expect our people to read and update their areas of expertise with the resources we provide. Our business depends on giving up to date sound fiduciary/tax/bookkeeping/accounting advise, if one of our employees came to a weekly meeting and said they relied on CNN etc. they would not be attending meetings for long. Are lawyers or doctors different in their approach to conduct, with the latest information to treat or defend their clients?
I would expect the same of the head of a major hospital or of the leading candidate for the head of the CDC.

If one of my employees discovered that CNN was regularly scooping my specialty news feeds, rather than firing the guy I would add CNN to my news feeds. But that’s just me.

Why do you think that she relied on CNN ? CNN broke the news first, bur of course the results themselves are important. CNN reported accurately, data indeed shows 95% efficiency.

“Our company subscribes to 3 major accounting news consolidation, news feeds, that are updated every day.”

If your news feeds aren’t updated every two hours, how can you possibly function? /sarcasm

Seriously, you’re moaning about how a 4 hour and 13 minute delay in receiving news is unforgivably out of date. There are very few professions that are that time-sensitive. Stock market? Sure. Military or national intelligence? Ya betcha. But medicine? No.

Also, note that she said the CNN feed. This means she wasn’t watching TV, she was getting updated from one of the CNN news feeds (likely an RSS feed). Which are much like the news feeds you were bragging about, except updated more often.

This is exactly correct. No way does a 4 hour delay in “breaking” medical interventions affect care.

I wasn’t bragging about any of the news feeds we subscribe to, I was just trying to explain that a person in that high of a positions should have had feeds that updated them on the progress of medical information, our feeds provide up to date info on legislative. legal ruling and progress of various legislative bills, as a provider of services it is our duty (both morally and legally) to give the latest and best advise and provide future legislative information.

what do you think the consequences of a drug manufacture announcing a recall on a couple of lots of medications or vaccines that were contaminated and you or someone else administrated those to a patient after the recall was announced.

My point was simply that she, as an insider, should have known from other sources that Pfizer was going to make an announcement, and if she was not that well connected what is she doing in charge of the CDC.

I suspect that if CPAs aren’t supplied with up-to-the-minute news, companies will go bankrupt right and left, markets will crash and capitalism itself will become defunct.

Thank gawd folks like Ed have their fingers continually on the pulse of civilization.

>
I wasn’t bragging about any of the news feeds we subscribe to, I was just trying to explain that a person in that high of a positions
>

What position? She wasn’t in the CDC at the time. This has already been explained.

And yes markets could crash or people could go bankrupt if they are given bad advise/information, its called fiduciary responsibility, I guess giving outdated advise is ok in the medical community.

Walensky served as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School

So people who are not in the CDC are not expected know anything current?

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