Mendacity is worse than dishonesty. According to one essay on mendacity, “Mendacity connotes a mixture of dishonesty, hypocrisy and audacity.” Mendacity is an important theme of the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams. “What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity? There ain’t nothing more powerful than the odor of mendacity!” I recently encountered this powerful and obnoxious odor in my email inbox with the arrival of a Medical News and Perspectives from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The title of this bit of medical mendacity is: “When Physicians Spread Unscientific Information about COVID-19.” Scientific information is curiously absent from the commentary. Instead, the words misinformation and disinformation in the body of the work are equated with unscientific information in the title. A number of people are accused of spreading misinformation, but no specific examples of scientifically incorrect statements are provided.
The first specific claim of wrongdoing is “Ladapo continued to publicly contradict CDC recommendations on vaccines, masks, and testing.” The reader is required to accept that CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations are necessarily statements of scientific truth. This is religious dogma rather than the practice of the scientific method. The scientific method requires the free and open dissent from any scientific hypothesis by either empiric evidence contrary to the hypothesis or the logical extension of the hypothesis to an absurd conclusion.
It is only by successful defense against dissenting opinions that scientific hypotheses become accepted as truth. By claiming that any dissent from CDC opinion is misinformation or scientific falsehood, JAMA has elevated the CDC to a divine source of infallible truth. JAMA further requests that medical boards become a new Inquisition to root out heresy and apostasy.
The JAMA commentary reserved special criticism of the organization America’s Frontline Doctors for the sins of opposition to “vaccination and mask mandates” and the promotion of “ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for prevention and early treatment of COVID-19.” The JAMA commentary is dishonest by conflating opposition to mandates with opposition to the action being mandated.
It is quite possible to agree with the decision to vaccinate yet be opposed to forcing others to agree with that decision. Furthermore, claims about vaccine efficacy and safety are always debatable, given that data have been withheld from the public and are necessarily incomplete about future events. The JAMA commentary is further dishonest in its implication that promotion of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine is beyond the pale. The National Library of Medicine includes citations supporting the efficacy of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for covid-19. While the quality of the scientific information is always debatable, it is mendacious to claim that promotion of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine is unscientific.
The JAMA commentary is hypocritical in failing to note that CDC—the oracle of Delphi—has changed its position on the efficacy of masks multiple times during the course of the covid-19 pandemic. The JAMA commentary is dripping with audacity in asserting that anyone contradicting the CDC deserves excommunication from the practice of medicine.
Another specific citation of sin in the JAMA commentary noted: “A widely publicized January 23, 2022, march against COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Washington, DC, included physicians among its sponsors and speakers. A livestream of the event showed attendees shoulder to shoulder in front of the Lincoln Memorial, vanishingly few wearing masks.” Perhaps JAMA inquisitors should keep up with “The Science,” which currently questions the wisdom of masks during outdoor events. The history of science is full of examples where heresy and apostasy become generally accepted scientific truths.
The JAMA commentary is a typical authoritarian response to dissent. Authoritarians insist that people practice the logical fallacy known as appeal to authority. In this case, JAMA asserts that any statement from the CDC must be true, so any contradiction of CDC policy must be unscientific or misinformation. In this way, authoritarians relieve themselves of the difficult task of persuading people about the truth of their claims. The most common reason why people reject statements from authority is recent memory of lies from the same authority.
The CDC has damaged its own credibility by admissions that it has withheld significant data on vaccines because the data might be misinterpreted. Rather than correct the mendacity of authority to increase trust in authority, the authoritarians demand that disagreement with authority be punished by some form of excommunication from civil discourse. In this case, rather than recognizing that the prevalence of people who disagree with statements made by the CDC is based on previous false or misleading statements by the CDC, JAMA asserts that any dissent from the CDC statements must be purged or silenced. True science with a small s welcomes dissent and agrees to debate dissent on the merits of the arguments rather than ad hominem attacks on the dissenters.
The medical establishment is afraid to debate dissenters on the merits of the arguments demonstrating the weakness of the establishment narrative. JAMA does not even pretend to demonstrate that the heretics and apostates have made false statements. Instead, JAMA asserts that the CDC is infallible and any contradiction of CDC policy by physicians is de facto proof of heresy and should be punished by excommunication.
The stench of mendacity emanating from the medical establishment has become powerful and obnoxious.
About the Author
Gilbert Berdine is an associate professor of medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and an affiliate of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University.
Image by Raed Mansour via Flickr, CC BY 2.0. Article cross-posted from Mises.
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