Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The intellectually dishonest harming their own causes / Follow-up: various

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As I have discussed in some earlier texts (e.g. [1]), the problems associated with replacing a fair debate with “Fake news! Fake news!”, censorship, and other anti-intellectual and intellectually dishonest methods can be grave. An interesting issue is that this type of “argumentation” often backfires, both in that the intellectually dishonest lose credibility, much like the boy who cried wolf, and that they will lose an audience for solid arguments (should they exist) resp. the chance to present these arguments.

In particular, those who are strong critical thinkers, know science and logic, are used to think for themselves, etc., are exactly those who tend to be put off by this type of “argumentation”. In contrast, those who fall for it tends to be the gullible, those who cannot or will not think for themselves. (Note the stark contrast with official propaganda around COVID, where, somehow, the gullible are the enlightened and the thinkers in need of “education” or whatnot. Also note [2], where I discuss by own vaccine situation and the issues of intellectually dishonest, sometimes even outright terrifying, propaganda.)

Consider the case of side-effects from the COVID-vaccines. There appear to be two camps over the last year-or-so:

Firstly, the mainstream camp, which claims that side-effects are far too rare to be of concern—and which supports this opinion more with defamation of the other camp than with arguments, statistics, science, whatnot. An important special case is the sometime identification of those skeptical towards the current COVID-vaccines or their use with the older and more general anti-vaccine movement. (Yes, members of the latter are highly likely to be members of the former, but the opposite does not automatically apply and there are legitimate concerns around the COVID-vaccines and their use that are not relevant to the debate on vaccines in general.)

Secondly, the opposing camp, which claims that the side-effects outweigh the benefits for those not in a risk-group, and at least try to support this stance with arguments, statistics, science, whatnot.

This second camp, however, contains a spectrum ranging from those who believe that the risks, while unnecessary and not outweighed by any vaccine benefits, are very small, to those who believe that the risks are very large. (And especially the latter might make further going claims than those mentioned above.)

If (!) the mainstream camp is correct, or at least approximately correct, in that the “very small” side of the opposing spectrum is correct, why not take the debate, clarify the situation, and avoid fears in the population that the “very large” side of the opposing spectrum is correct? Vice versa, if the mainstream camp is incorrect, this should be established as soon as possible, to reduce the risks to the people.

Example: Apparently, a great number of athletes have dropped dead after taking a vaccine and are making the headlines of alternative media,* while being ignored or explained away with (often) weak arguments in mainstream media. Assume that we were instead to perform some type of baseline comparison, to establish whether the aggregate numbers are higher than they normally are and/or whether the rate of death is higher within some time after taking the vaccine than among the unvaccinated. If they are not, this would be a significant (and, for once, legitimate gain) for the mainstream camp; if they are, this should be brought to common knowledge and begin** to influence policy as soon as possible.

*Sometimes, regrettably, after merely dropping dead, with only a speculated connection to the vaccine—neither camp is perfect.

**However, an increase does not automatically give us vaccines as the cause of that increase. The conclusion would be tentative and the correct measure would be to scale back vaccinations (outside risk groups) while further investigations are made.

Similarly, the mainstream camp has pushed a narrative that the unvaccinated would be a threat, would allow the virus to survive*/mutate/become more virulent/whatnot. This usually through argumentation-by-assertion. The opposing camp has the opposite take—that “over-vaccination” creates more dangerous versions of the virus, and that the vaccine is better left to risk groups. This stance is supported by arguments, empirical knowledge about viruses in general,** and reason. Indeed, when it comes to antibiotics, the mainstream stance is (or has historically been) the same—we should use antibiotics with restraint, lest some bacterial strains develop immunity and leave us defenseless. Again: if the mainstream camp has it right, it should take the debate and try to win that debate based on better arguments; if it has it wrong, we must learn this as soon as possible and policy must be adapted.

*A particular perfidious claim as there is no greater chance of exterminating COVID than the flu—even with a fully vaccinated population.

**Where the characteristics of different viruses have to be factored in. As has been noted repeatedly by experts, the characteristics of e.g. the viruses behind smallpox and COVID are very different, making the successful anti-smallpox strategy pointless with COVID. In contrast, COVID does have much in common with the flu, and lessons from major flu epidemics are more valuable.

Speaking for myself, I am genuinely concerned about at some point being forced to take one of the current vaccines. This, and pay attention here, not because I believe that the risks are very large, but because the risks are unknown to me. In particular, as things currently stand, there is no possibility for me to give “informed consent” in any reasonable sense of the phrase—the behavior of the mainstream camp has ensured that I am uninformed*. In contrast, COVID is a known risk—and that risk is very small for me, as I am not a member of a risk group. I would effectively be weighing a known very small risk against an unknown risk somewhere in the range from very small to very large.**

*Note that this is a type of uninformed that differs from that of the ignorant average citizen: I have a considerable, if still layman-level, amount of information on various topics and sub-topics, but they are often subject to great uncertainties and conflicts of “presumed-expert-A says one thing and presumed-expert-B another”—and where clarity cannot be found, because the one side refuses the debate with the other, implying that any single source will present its arguments (or “arguments”) unopposed. (To which, cf. the next footnote, must be added that some items might still be unknown or unknowable even to competent experts.)

**And this just looking at the somewhat near future. In addition, I have seen some raise concern about unknown long-term damage. This is both natural and valid, but it is interesting that the mainstream camp raised early such concerns about COVID, but is now trying to squash any such concerns about the vaccinations. Again, the argumentation is not directed at rational decision making but at increasing COVID fears or avoiding vaccine fears—and never mind the underlying reality.

To this I might add that the incorrectness of claims from the mainstream camp is often indisputable—not merely an issue of something unknowable, a difference in opinion, or similar. For instance, some months back, I read a text where some utter idiot argued that because our school children would be extra super-duper vulnerable to COVID, it would be extra super-duper important to prioritize vaccinations for said school children. However, experiences gathered over roughly two years show indisputably that school children are extremely unlikely to fall victim—either they avoid infection to begin with or the infection, with very, very few exceptions, never moves beyond something trivial. Indeed, school children might be the single age group(s) who are naturally the safest.

On the upside, there seems to be a trend towards more common sense at the moment, including positive claims by the WHO and the U.K., but it is too early to be truly hopeful—and it has yet to make any noticeable change in Germany (where I live).

Written by michaeleriksson

January 20, 2022 at 3:49 pm

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  1. […] an addendum to some of my texts on COVID (e.g. [1] from earlier […]


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