What Can We Do If No One Can Be Believed?

I’ve been writing about misinformation lately, referring to industry misinformation about bills we support. The challenge of countering industry deception at the legislature is a big problem. But today I am writing about an even bigger problem.

Before we dive into a thorny topic, a quick announcement and a tremendous video from the Public Banking folks at Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity.

Our Zoominar on Public Banking scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed due to challenges in organizing the presentation, in part, due to a health condition challenging one of the panelists. We hope to reschedule the Zoominar in October. Stay tuned. In the meantime, please watch and share this tremendous video produced by AFLEP that highlights the kinds of projects a public bank could help finance.

What Do You Do When You Can’t Believe Anyone or Anything?

I get emails from readers all the time, often offering an opinion or an article or book they recommend. Sometimes I immediately download the recommended article or purchase the recommended book. Sometimes I may dismiss the recommendation as it seems like a bridge too far — like when I was told about how the media is failing to report on how the 9-11 attack was actually conducted by the U.S. to offer justification for its ill-fated Iraqi invasion. I wouldn’t have cared how carefully constructed the article was, I simply couldn’t buy that our government would have willingly slaughtered 3,000 innocent Americans for that justification. The history book is too full of our going to war with the slightest provocation to believe this.

That was also my reaction to the handful of folks who wrote about how the FDA and CDC were lying about risks from vaccine(s), the effectiveness of ivermectin treatment, and the ineffectiveness of the shutdowns. But sometimes the credibility of the sender can cause me to explore. So, yesterday, when someone I trust a great deal sent an article describing how big pharma has been suppressing research on the efficacy of ivermectin (and other health treatments), I decided to at least scan the article, “The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1,” by Pierre Kory. Before we begin, the theme to this post is how do lay people, constituents like us, secure firm footing on what we understand if the sources of information are questionable? Kory began:

Dr. Marcia Angell, a former long-time editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) resigned in June of 2000 after twenty years in the post. She resigned because of what she described as the rising and indefensible influence being exerted by Pharma at the prestigious journal and its powerful affiliate societies. So she wrote a book about it instead. Some really important quotes of hers from “The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It” are:

‘Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, big Pharma uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers and the medical profession itself.’ ”

The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1

Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet said this in 2015:  

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”

The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1

As I read this, I have to admit nodding my head, silently concurring with the quote. After all, for the last week Roxanne has been reading me excerpts from The Empire of Pain, an exposé of the Sackler family (Purdue Pharma) and its manipulation of medical research to advance their profit on Valium and later Oxycontin. And some months ago we watched Dopesick, a riveting Hulu docudrama on the Sacklers and their disgusting and flagrant marketing of Oxycontin, despite clear evidence of its highly addictive quality and how thousands were dying from overdoses. So I was prepared to believe that pharma was taking advantage of the epidemic, manipulating scientific research to maximize already huge profits. But every instinct reminded me that ivermectin was a miracle cure touted by anti-vaxxers. How do I even go there? But that is the point of this post. When all the “facts” and science appear to be smoke and mirrors, how do you or I make good decisions about vaccines, hydrogen development, or anything else?

Kory goes on to cite Dr. Aseem Malhotra, asserted by Kory to be one of the most prominent COVID “truth tellers” that has remained employed, who recently tweeted a quote from an interview he did:

“We have a wealth of evidence of the fraud that’s been committed by the pharmaceutical industry over the years’ ‘the real scandal is that doctors & medical journals collude with industry for financial gain & the regulator fails to prevent misconduct by industry.”

The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1

Kory acknowledges that this collusion is largely within the major medical journals, those with the most impact on policy and the most influence among the medical community. He then identifies the six top medical journals

Kory continues:

With the exception of the Annals of Internal Medicine, all the journals on the above list will feature heavily in this and my next post detailing their criminal collusion throughout the pandemic.

One of the most important powers of these journals is that they can drive headlines like nobody’s business. When a Pharma friendly study gets published in one of those journals, it launches a PR media campaign that no amount of commercials or advertisements could accomplish. Conversely, if Pharma wants to prevent an effective generic drug or vitamin from being adopted widely, they pay researchers to design, conduct, and publish fraudulent studies in these journals. When such a study is published, it triggers an equally effective “negative” PR campaign warning the world and its doctors against using such “dangerous” and “ineffective” therapies.

The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1

Kory goes on:

Big Pharma and BMGF (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also gives money to a lot of medical journals) essentially control the high-impact journals. They figured out the importance of doing that many decades ago. By doing that, Pharma can get the world to use ridiculous therapies like Remdesivir, Paxlovid and coronavirus vaccines while ignoring and recommending against the use of Vitamin D, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin.

The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1

Shocking as this appears, assessing the veracity of different meta analyses and clinical trials is well above my pay grade, so after one more quote I’ll return to my original point: What do we do if there is no one whose information we can trust? But first, this nugget from Kory:

The high-impact journal editors did four things to suppress the evidence of efficacy of ivermectin in COVID:

1)    Rejected all positive trials of ivermectin, even (and especially) the high quality ones, starting as far back as May of 2020. (That is what this post is about.)

2)    Retracted positive ivermectin studies even after they passed peer-review and/or were already published (these actions were unprecedented in our careers as physicians and researchers). That is what my next post will be about.

3)    Published fraudulent trials and fraudulent meta-analyses, with the latter technique identical to that employed in the WHO’s corrupt recommendation against ivermectin here. This is a known Disinformation tactic called “the Fake,” defined as “conduct counterfeit science and try to pass it off as legitimate research.”

4)    Published numerous anti-ivermectin editorials, which is also an already named Disinformation tactic called “The Diversion.”

The Criminal Censorship of Ivermectin’s Efficacy By The High-Impact Medical Journals – Part 1

What to make of all this?

I want to stick with pharma for a minute before shifting to other germane issues where faux research or misinformation are prominent. When in college, Roxanne became a vegetarian and very into nutrition, herbs, and supplements, an interest she has maintained to this day. Roxanne eventually brought me around to alternative treatments, but I recall reading how supplements and more holistic practices like acupuncture are not subject to serious scientific studies and, as a result, can’t tout benefits except anecdotally. Kory’s piece makes the reason for this apparent. Big pharma can’t make much money on Vitamin C, D, or E, but they have a coterie of drugs they will cheerfully sell you that may have far less benefit than simple vitamins and actually do you harm. If pharma was interested in people and their health more than their profits, they would not oppose and squash efforts to research alternative therapies, as outlined in ‘Big pharma doesn’t want you to know about alternatives“, an article from Drug Watch. They point out that due to big pharma’s stranglehold on what can be studied, a raft of alternative treatments never are subjects of clinical trials, despite showing considerable benefit in the modest studies that are conducted. And so most insurances won’t cover:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Chiropractic care
  • Homeopathy
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Herbalism
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Body movement
  • Electromagnetic therapy
  • Reiki

Big Pharma is not the only industry to control research related to that industry. As reported by NPR in its piece, “How The NRA Worked To Stifle Gun Violence Research,” since 1996, under pressure from the NRA, Congress has refused to fund CDC research on gun violence. This suppression of research came as a result of 1993 CDC-funded research disproving NRA claims that having a gun in your home offers increased safety for family members. From NPR:

Federal limits on both research into gun violence and the release of data about guns used in crimes are powerful reminders of the lobbying group’s advantages over gun control activists. For decades, the NRA pushed legislation that stifled the study and spread of information about the causes of gun violence.

The NRA was motivated to support the amendment [halting CDC research on gun violence] after a landmark 1993 study that concluded that having a gun in the home was more dangerous than not having one.

NPR: “How The NRA Worked To Stifle Gun Violence Research”

That big pharma and the NRA have their grip on research related to their industries should not be a surprise. Reflect back 60 years to the iron grip the tobacco industry had on research on the impact of tobacco use or second-hand smoke, and dating back to the ’70s, gas & oil’s control of research related to climate change, car emissions, and now hydrogen. And so, in a world replete with misinformation, we now must question science itself. Where does this leave us?

To be a thoughtful 21st century citizen, must each of us be social science research experts on hydrogen? Medication? Gun violence? Or any number of other issues? And if so, how do we trust the source research upon which we form our understanding?

I wrote all of the above yesterday, feeling confident that with a quick review, it would be ready for Roxanne’s eyes and then yours. But upon getting up this morning and reviewing what I had written and cited, I began to question whether I was attributing scientific merit to a quack (Kory). Indeed if you Google Pierre Kory, one of the first articles you will encounter is from Scientific America: “Fringe Doctors’ Groups Promote Ivermetin Despite Lack of Evidence.” From Scientific American:

Derived from a compound discovered in a soil microbe in Japan, ivermectin has been called a “miracle drug” and “the penicillin of COVID” by Pierre Kory, a critical care physician in Madison, Wis. Kory is president of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), a group of physicians and scientists who champion ivermectin, along with other drugs and vitamins with dubious efficacy against COVID. The organization, along with two others called the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) Group and America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS), have drawn criticism from many other physicians and scientists. Yet treatment protocols, links and videos from these groups are sweeping through social media, promoted by vaccine skeptics.

Scientific America: “Fringe Doctors’ Groups Promote Ivermetin Despite Lack of Evidence.”

So, after hours of research I’d come full circle. That Kory would be subject to criticism from mainstream medicine is entirely consistent with his point. While the article cited throughout came from Kory, the very first citation is of Kory quoting Dr. Marcia Angell, the former long-time editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) who resigned in June of 2000 after twenty years in the post, precisely due to the kind of undue influence pharma exerts and Kory underscores.

I return to the question that introduced today’s theme: What do we do if no one can believed? I’ve tried to explore that theme, but have largely come up empty on the answer to the question. So, I ask you: What do we do? Must we all become researchers? Or do we pick a few resources we respect and trust that they’ve done due diligence? Put another way, if you have to choose and can’t really be certain of the truth behind your options, do you really have a choice? What do you think?

In solidarity & hope,

Paul & Roxanne

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15 replies

  1. I have a handful of authorities that I routinely follow and trust (Sci. Am., Science News, Electoral-vote.com, etc.), but even for mainstream media (e.g., NY Times), I take the time to click through to the original references they cite. Then, if I post something, I’ll most likely link to the original source, not the Times or whatever.

  2. Listen to independent scientists and informed advocates. They watchdog the expert class that often becomes blinded by group-think and careerism. Independent scientists enrich the debate by questioning assumptions and providing context. To hold their own, frontline advocates must be more informed than the experts they question. Like Rachel Carson, expect hostility and ridicule. This is the price of making a better world.

  3. Great post. Thanks for sharing and especially for having the courage to confront some of your own assumptions. I’ve struggled with this issue for years and don’t have any easy answers. I spent months reading 9/11 research, for example, but it’s simply not possible to spend that much time and energy on every controversial issue. Occasionally hints and shortcuts do present themselves: claims that are easily fact checked, material that is clearly tendentious in tone, logical fallacies, and so forth. But the information environment around COVID in particular has been particularly difficult to parse from the beginning, and seems to always present itself as a welter of conflicting research studies that are not easily evaluated by the lay person.
    As a side note, I must mention that, in my experience, it is often my smart progressive friends who are unwilling to question the institutional view, especially when it comes to medicine. In our polarized epistemic environment, it is the political right that has seized on distrust of institutions as a political issue. The difficulty is that institutional corruption, in medicine and elsewhere, is real. Democrats ignore it, while Republicans manipulate it for partisan gain (if I may oversimplify a bit). Both sides, however, fail to properly confront it because both function to protect the interests of corporate and oligarchic elites who are the source of it.
    So, like with so many issues in our society, we just need to Retake our Democracy and restore integrity to our institutions.

  4. This is a subject dear to my heart. I wish that I had the time to formulate a thorough and lengthy reply; unfortunately, today, I don’t. In a previous life, I worked on over 60 clinical trials and have a good knowledge of the vocabulary for same. Specifically, regarding ivermectin, some supplements (D, quercetin, zinc and such), and other approved meds used off-label, I believe that they provide benefit for covid. Kory is no quack. He has had his reputation trashed as have other well-known docs who challenge the narrative. He is not selling anything (although a book is in the works–2 1/2 years after the beginning of covid). A discussion of the corruption, incompetence, and failures of our healthcare “system” could take a day, easily. Big Pharma is firmly in control and has been so for the past 20+ years. It is the same in any number of business sectors. The big players, with their bought-and-sold politicians and media run the show. And yes, it takes an effort to find reliable sources, then test them over time to see if they are consistently trustworthy. Most people do not have this luxury. They are living their lives, full with family, work, etc. The easy answer is to glom onto a source that may be comforting or align with one’s immediate concerns or ideology, but often these prove to be UNtrustworthy. So, vigilance and skepticism, about virtually everything, is my personal approach. Question, question, question.

  5. Just reading through the above thoughtful and sane comments illuminates the labyrinthine rat’s (the “bought” ones running the show) nest we are trying to penetrate. For the many intelligent citizens trying to “see”, seeking even one trusted source is a challenge. But, when found, stick with them to build clarity wherever one can. Even if we don’t know it all, when we can find a few such sources, we are better served than not. Retake is one such source. Add, for example, some Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal and the Gray Zone, Aaron Mate, Brianna Joy Grey, Breaking Points, and – yes – even Joe Rogan, Jimmy Dore, Russell Brand, and Jon Stewart – to keep the stifling, fetid air of mis and disinformation from your sphere. They at least aim for Truth. Meanwhile, Julian Assange keeps a lot of mouths and truth sources closed. Few, understandably, can face that price. To all of our shame and loss.

  6. Follow the money. That usually will answer your questions. Big Pharma TV ads finance mainstream news and their millionaire-paid mouthpieces. Thus Rachel Maddow describing Ivermectin as a “horse dewormer” when it is a Nobel-prize-winning medication which has been used successfully by millions of people around the world for 40 years. The fact is if effective medications were available for Covid (as Ivermectin is, among others) an Emergency Authorization Use would not have been possible and Pfizer et al would have missed out on trillions. And hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. It is now being revealed that the “vaxes” are not safe and effective, they do not stop infection and transmission as promised by Fauci and all the other Big Pharma government agents, and the trials were fraudulent. Athletes dropping dead by the hundreds. Millions of vax adverse side effects and deaths are not being reported, We don’t know yet the full ramifications of these injections on future health, fertility and lifespan. We don’t even fully know what is in them! Where are the transparent studies the CDC promised? Doctors like Pierre Kory and others like him are the heroes in this tragic planetary drama, risking everything to tell the truth and save their patients. This will go down as the most criminal public health policy in history. The censorship of eminent scientific opinions (of tens of thousands of doctors and scientists all over the world, some deplatformed or fired for voicing their opinions), the politicization of the “vax”, the unnecessary destructive lockdowns, the obsessive masking (of toddlers!), the fear-mongering, all leading us to a fascistic subservience. It’s time to fact-check the fact-checkers, follow the money, you will find the usual suspects. Thank you Paul for bringing this issue up. We must snap out of the trance of blindly believing our government and MSNBC et al. We must look for second opinions, alternative news sources, use our common sense. As for 9-11, I am still waiting for the answer to what happened to Building 7 which housed vital Pentagon money files. It suffered an internal demolition implosion similar to the Towers, but no plane hit it.

  7. Thanks Paul for a great thoughtful post about this serious problem. Often the legitimacy of a “quack” piece is established right at the start with a flamboyant quote about someone who seems beyond the pale. I wonder if it’s true that Dr. Marcia Angell resigned because of what Kory suggests. A direct email to her to validate the quote might be of some help.

  8. Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been sounding the alarm about this loudly and clearly for quite a long time. I would venture to say the predominance of people on the left have refused to listen to him, instead relying upon his vilification by political powers-that-be (on the left), the medical industry, Big Tech, Big Pharma, the media, and governmental organizations, all captured by the industries Kennedy is publicly condemning, bravely and boldly. Most of those of us highly trained in natural medicine clearly see the depth of the corruption, the lives being lost, the destruction of health, and the utter reckless greed of today’s business of conventional medicine. If you want to look further into this, have a read of “The Real Anthony Fauci; Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health” by Kennedy. Note the 1,400 endnote references. It might leave you a bit stunned, but you will learn what all Americans should be learning about the truth of the U.S. medical system. Kennedy has written a follow-up titled “A Letter to Liberals”.

  9. This is such a spectacularly good article (as are the comments) I’m going to post it to my elist and squirrel it away, I’m sure I’m going to need it again in the future.

    Thank you for such an honest debate and introspection without being preachy or trying to push one side or the other. You have provided quite a gift for your readers – guidance for those of us trying to navigate the forest of information, much of it corrupted by money and greed. And the same problem exists in many contexts, not just in the one you highlight.

    In that vein, I would like to mention a complementary resource I’ve found particularly interesting, written by a young philosopher named http://www.CharlesEisenstein.com who has lots of stuff on his website. I first ran across him after the 2016 election where every pundit wrote about what trump’s election meant, and much of it was just filling space and was not particularly unique. However, one commentary that I stumbled across, written by Charles, was so far higher in metaphysical altitude than anything else I read, I got his book: “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible”. Doesn’t the title just grab you?

    And the book did not disappoint. It’s the first book I ever read that was so good, that upon finishing it, I read the entire book a second time. And the last 8 pages contain an allegory that when I read it in a group, I’m moved to tears. Every time.

    It provides no answers, it does not push a particular view, but instead provides a context in which to contemplate the madness of our times, the madness we all feel deep in our bones. And as a “Frank and Ernest” cartoon once said, “It really gets you to think, but other than that, I didn’t see anything wrong with it.” 🙂 I’ve found every chapter provides a springboard for contemplation.

    And his more recent book, “Climate – A New Story”, is similarly important about how most of the climate change discussion is about addressing symptoms with band aids because that avoids challenging the foundation of our society, something the elite won’t tolerate. And no big problem is solved by band aids. The mainstream discussion completely ignores the root cause, which is something the indigenous people have been trying to tell us for centuries. But if we don’t pay attention now, during this perfect storm of crises, our society may not survive.

    The other resource I’d like to plug is a bi-partisan organization (disclosure: of which I’m the treasurer) that is working on the corrosive effect of money on our politics. Everybody across the political spectrum knows the system is rigged against us, and this org seeks to bring people on opposite ends of the spectrum together to all work on the same problem together. And unless this problem is fundamentally addressed, nothing will change. I urge you to watch the videos: http://www.RepresentUsNewMexico.org

  10. I guess one needs to find reliable sources that they can trust. Many years ago I was introduced through NPR to “The Peoples Pharmacy” , a source that I now read through their thoughtful daily e-newsletter. They explore many pharma remedies both natural and pharmaceutical. Over the years I have been introduced to “cures for arthritis” such as CERTO and grape juice, which I find to be quite effective in reducing stiffness and pain, and more recently a compelling interview with a Baylor College researcher on the benefits of Tumeric/Curcumin in reducing inflammation and the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Here is a link to a thoughtful article on ivermectin. Check it out.https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/articles/is-ivermectin-a-miracle-or-a-menace-vs-covid

  11. First of all, I’ll say that this is a really important subject to consider and evaluating the reliability of research for non-specialists can be exceptionally difficult. One point I would make though is that it isn’t just a question of ‘follow the money’ but more a question of ‘follow the incentives’. Academics can be influenced/incentivized by any number of non-monetary (or at least not directly monetary) considerations, many of which are tied to how one raises or maintains one’s reputation/prestige in the discipline where one is working. One can think of it as a sort of game in which one gets points for producing research results, but the structure of the points system can be very opaque to those who haven’t worked in a specific academic community. Further, even for those who are working inside of a specific discipline it can be difficult to identify potential sources of bias or issues with standard research methodologies in that discipline as long as those biases/methodologies are generally accepted by the majority of people working in that discipline.

    One finds that some disciplines tend to have higher quality standards and one will get more points for publishing a few good papers, while in others, one tends to get more points for a high volume of papers even if these are of highly variable quality. Examples of disciplines with typically fairly high standards are physics and chemistry, while examples of disciplines which produce a high volume of (often) low quality results are medicine and educational research.

    In addition, there are a number of typical features of most academic ‘point systems’. Positive results are more likely to be published and receive recognition than negative results. Results that are consistent with existing theories and/or biases are much more likely to be published than those that contradict an existing consensus view. More mathematically/statistically complex work typically gets more points (even if the work may be difficult to decipher even for other researchers). Being the first to identify a phenomenon or relationship is typically a big points winner, even if the research behind it is rather hurried and slap-dash. All of these features of many academic point systems can produce a ‘conventional wisdom’ that isn’t very wise at all.

    Why is medicine particularly notorious for producing questionable results? Clearly, the money issue is a factor, but there are others as well: Although a lot of medical research is done by biologists, chemists and even physicists (people from disciplines with fairly high quality standards) those that control most medical research programs are doctors of medicine. Note that medical doctors spend most of their academic training on learning the vast array of already existing diagnosis and treatment methods and receive very little training on research methodology. It is not surprising that when MD’s get around to trying to do research (which wins a lot of prestige points) the results can be pretty spotty. Further, a lot of medical research is just plain difficult. Experiments (the gold standard of empirical research) in medicine is exceptionally expensive and can take years if done properly. (The money issue in medicine isn’t always about greed, rather, it is often about just getting the money necessary to actually do experiments).

    Because of this cost issue, a lot of medical research is based on observational data which can be tainted by many ‘confounding factors’. E.g., do poor people have worse health outcomes because they have less access to health care, or because they live in areas with more health impacting risk factors, or because they don’t have time in their day to do much exercise, or, or, or… (Note that the issue of empirical research being based on observational data with many confounding factors is an almost universal feature of empirical research in the social sciences).

    I would reiterate that although medical research has many issues, other disciplines have their own problems. If you don’t think so, read up on the ‘Replication Crisis’ (for an overview see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis and the many references cited therein).

  12. Is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. really still a Democrat? He is these days seen with folks like Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and Tucker Carlson. I used to follow him back in the day on his show Ring of Fire on Air America. His own family and some longtime friends have had to distance themselves from him as he has become increasingly unhinged. He’s also raked in millions of dollars promoting anti vaccine propaganda. I am no fan of the pharmaceutical industry and believe many of the products they promote lead to ailments beyond what they are touted to alleviate. But some are life saving. One need only look to the many right wing radio hosts and ministers who have perished from Covid after promoting and taking Ivermectin as a cure. Do we really need to continue with these debunked promotions. Even Trump eventually got vaccinated. Come on!

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