Study Concludes that Covid Sceptics are Smart, Sophisticated, Scientifically Literate and Very Dangerous!

This is probably one of the most amazing studies on Scepticism and Sceptics (Covid, in this case) I’ve ever read, which just blows away Lew’s clumsy and faltering attempts to mischaracterise and traduce climate sceptics. It really is a work of fine art which comes to all the ‘wrong’ conclusions about a group of people who formally question the official scientific narrative. Having done so it then proceeds to completely turn those conclusions (which are glowingly positive overall) upon their head to bizarrely argue for a negative interpretation of scepticism which is totally unjustified by their findings! I’ve never seen anything like it.

Before I give my own analysis of the study, here are some tweets from a person equally amazed by it:

Astounding! Nobody ever wrote such a glowing ‘critical’ report on climate sceptics! As far as our detractors are concerned we are a bunch of retarded, anti-science, know-nothing deniers who have the audacity to challenge the ‘experts’ using crude denialist talking points, moon landing type conspiracy theories and graphs and data which have long been debunked by researchers and by reality itself. Mind you, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of natural crossover between climate scepticism and Covid scepticism, a fact which has caused me considerable personal distress over the last year.

These researchers however, really took a deep dive into the Covid scepticism universe, perhaps expecting it to be inhabited by tin-foil hat wearing, unsophisticated, ill informed, scientifically illiterate numbskulls (maybe after they read Lew and Cook’s outpourings on climate scepticism), only to discover that it was populated by people who valued science and empirical data rather more than their ideological opponents and what is more, were often better qualified to analyse that data than their opponents! BIG lol.

I will just add to Commie Lee Jones’ series of excellent tweets with a few choice quotes from the paper of my own. This is particularly revealing:

Far from ignoring scientific evidence to argue for individual freedom, antimaskers often engage deeply with public datasets and make what we call “counter-visualizations”—visualizations using orthodox methods to make unorthodox arguments—to challenge mainstream narratives that the pandemic is urgent and ongoing.

This is a bizarre argument. What they are saying in effect is that natural conclusions from the data are unorthodox, whereas the unsubstantiated and demonstrably illogical conclusions of policy makers and government science advisers, using the same data, is to be considered orthodox. You see what they did? Lockdowns and mass mask wearing, never before used to try to control a pandemic (with the exception of Spanish ‘flu patchily implemented mask mandates in 1918 – which demonstrably failed) are now orthodox. Natural, logical and scientific interpretations of the data are now unorthodox.

However, we find that anti-mask groups on Twitter often create polished counter-visualizations that would not be out of place in scientific papers, health department reports, and publications like the Financial Times.

While previous literature in visualization and science communication has emphasized the need for data and media literacy as a way to combat misinformation [43, 47, 89], this study finds that anti-mask groups practice a form of data literacy in spades. Within this constituency, unorthodox viewpoints do not result from a deficiency of data literacy; sophisticated practices of data literacy are a means of consolidating and promulgating views that fly in the face of scientific orthodoxy.

So, they find that “anti-mask groups practice a form of data literacy in spades”. Hilarious!

The following passage reveals that the authors do not in fact understand what science actually is, as they equate ‘mainstream science’ with the prevailing public narrative.

In media studies, the term “counterpublic” describes constituencies that organize themselves in opposition to mainstream civic discourse, often by agentively using communications media [37]. In approaching anti-maskers as a counterpublic (a group shaped by its hostile stance toward mainstream science), we focus particular attention on one form of agentive media production central to their movement: data visualization. We define this counterpublic’s visualization practices as “counter-visualizations” that use orthodox scientific methods to make unorthodox arguments, beyond the pale of the scientific establishment.

I think the authors must be media studies graduates by the sound of it. ‘Mainstream civic discourse’ is not mainstream science and conclusions based on the use of orthodox scientific methods are not, by definition, beyond the pale of the scientific establishment. What an utterly ridiculous thing to say.

Here they go again, mistaking a mythical Covid ‘scientific consensus’ for mainstream epidemilogical science when it is nothing of the sort. There is no consensus on Covid beyond an inflexible, rigidly enforced, medically unprecedented and globally homogeneous political response to the pandemic allegedly scientifically informed by a very few ‘expert’ modelers and even fewer epidemiologists. The authors do not understand this at all. Hence they equate rational, science-based questioning of the prevailing political and social narrative with a political counter culture.

As a subculture, anti-masking amplifies anti-establishment currents pervasive in U.S. political culture. Data literacy, for antimaskers, exemplifies distinctly American ideals of intellectual selfreliance, which historically takes the form of rejecting experts and other elites [53]. The counter-visualizations that they produce and circulate not only challenge scientific consensus, but they also assert the value of independence in a society that they believe promotes an overall de-skilling and dumbing-down of the population for the sake of more effective social control.

The authors double down on their confused idea of what science is and by so doing they increasingly mischaracterize so called ‘anti-maskers’ who rely upon science and data to question the alleged ‘scientific consensus’ on Covid, a consensus which does not exist and a dominant narrative which is most definitely not rooted firmly in established science.

While academic science is traditionally a system for producing knowledge within a laboratory, validating it through peer review, and sharing results within subsidiary communities, anti-maskers reject this hierarchical social model. They espouse a vision of science that is radically egalitarian and individualist. This study forces us to see that coronavirus skeptics champion science as a personal practice that prizes rationality and autonomy; for them, it is not a body of knowledge certified by an institution of experts.

Finally, what is most revealing is that these authors haven’t got a clue why the ‘antimaskers’ come to such divergent conclusions from the supposed ‘mainstream’ using exactly the same data. They just waffle some nonsense about cases and deaths in an attempt to explain it – and fail, miserably:

So how do these groups diverge from scientific orthodoxy if they are using the same data? We have identified a few sleights of hand that contribute to the broader epistemological crisis we identify between these groups and the majority of scientific researchers. For instance, they argue that there is an outsized emphasis on deaths versus cases: if the current datasets are fundamentally subjective and prone to manipulation (e.g., increased levels of faulty testing, asymptomatic vs. symptomatic cases), then deaths are the only reliable markers of the pandemic’s severity. Even then, these groups believe that deaths are an additionally problematic category because doctors are using a COVID diagnosis as the main cause of death (i.e., people who die because of COVID) when in reality there are other factors at play (i.e., dying with but not because of COVID). Since these categories are fundamentally subject to human interpretation, especially by those who have a vested interest in reporting as many COVID deaths as possible, these numbers are vastly over-reported, unreliable, and no more significant than the flu.

To underline the fact that they haven’t got a clue, they say this, near the end of the paper:

Understanding how these groups skillfully manipulate data to undermine mainstream science requires us to adjust the theoretical assumptions in HCI research about how data can be leveraged in public discourse.

By not having the foggiest idea how Covid sceptics arrive at conclusions so very different from the alleged ‘consensus’, the authors simply revert to accusing them of ‘skillfully manipulating’ the data in order to ‘undermine mainstream science’. So actually, in conclusion, although this study gives credit where credit is due to Covid sceptics, their overall approach is not so very different from Lewandowsky et al after all.

Update: The Conservative Woman “Covid sceptics aren’t as stupid as we thought, say experts”

SCIENCE is good. The use of the scientific method was first found in Babylonian texts and was filtered through the mind of Aristotle. It travelled, gaining definition and seriousness, via Arab physicists and the Somerset monk and Oxford scholar Roger Bacon. From there it bounced through the minds of Galileo, Descartes and Newton until finally becoming codified and universally accepted as: (1) observation and experiment, (2) hypothesis, (3) verification by fresh observation and experiment.

The government today claims that it is led by data, not dates. The government’s policies on lockdown and Covid are not political but strictly ‘based on the science’. Government information films are fronted by scientific high priests. Never in the history of the UK has public policy been so outsourced to the men and women in lab coats.

Ranged against them are the rag-tag, amateur and by definition ignorant ranks of the lockdown sceptics, baffled by numbers and complaining about ongoing restrictions in the face of mutations and variants.

Researchers at MIT set out to find out the way that US lockdown sceptics, and in particular mask sceptics, were using data, what data they were using and what primary colours they were using for their fingerpaints.

Something I missed which has an immediate resonance with Climate ‘why should we give you our data if you are going to use it against us?’ Gate:

So much so that at one point the MIT team suggest that far from allowing greater public access to the data, the data should be made more difficult to find:

‘These findings suggest that the ability for the scientific community and public health departments to better convey the urgency of the US coronavirus pandemic may not be strengthened by introducing more downloadable datasets . . .

What the MIT team has discovered is not what was assumed, mostly by government-supporting scientists, that the general public were, ‘data illiterate’: far from it. Allowing them unhindered access to the data, instead of undermining lockdown-sceptics, strengthens their hand. They sound baffled by the sceptics who ‘often reveal themselves to be more sophisticated in their understanding of how scientific knowledge is socially constructed than their ideological adversaries, who espouse naïve realism about the “objective” truth of public health data’.

And here is the Lew roll/Merchants of Doubt moment right at the end of the paper, when the authors just cannot reconcile their findings with their confirmational bias, so resort to simple name-calling and insults:

Then comes the pay-off. For some reason the MIT researchers, obviously so disgusted by finding out that ordinary people are rigorous and not nearly as stupid as generally thought, compare them to the tobacco lobby and the January Capitol Hill protesters.

By engaging in such wild and unreasonable ad hominems they merely look as if they are trying to be acceptable in the MIT common room, despite their findings. Those findings are clear that if anybody is applying the traditional idea behind the scientific method, it is not those supporting the Government’s approach to lockdown policy, but those questioning it.

6 comments

  1. Look at this. It’s blatant now. They can’t address the scientific arguments of the ‘anti-maskers’ and the Covid sceptics, so they are just erasing them from the public domain. A peer-reviwed mask sceptic study has just been retracted.

    “This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief.

    Medical Hypotheses serves as a forum for innovative and often disruptive ideas in medicine and related biomedical sciences. However, our strict editorial policy is that we do not publish misleading or inaccurate citations to advance any hypotheses.

    The Editorial Committee concluded that the author’s hypothesis is misleading on the following basis:

    1. A broader review of existing scientific evidence clearly shows that approved masks with correct certification, and worn in compliance with guidelines, are an effective prevention of COVID-19 transmission.

    2. The manuscript misquotes and selectively cites published papers. References #16, 17, 25 and 26 are all misquoted.

    3. Table 1. Physiological and Psychological Effects of Wearing Facemask and Their Potential Health Consequences, generated by the author. All data in the table is unverified, and there are several speculative statements.

    4. The author submitted that he is currently affiliated to Stanford University, and VA Palo Alto Health Care System. However, both institutions have confirmed that Dr Vainshelboim ended his connection with them in 2016.

    A subsequent internal investigation by the Editor-in-Chief and the Publisher have determined that this article was externally peer reviewed but not with our customary standards of rigor prior to publication. The journal has re-designed its editorial and review workflow to ensure that this will not happen again in future.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7680614/

    Fortunately, I have a copy of this study and this is what they write in the conclusion:

    “The existing scientific evidences challenge the safety and efficacy of wearing facemask as preventive intervention for COVID-19. The data suggest that both medical and non-medical facemasks are ineffective to block human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious disease such SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, supporting against the usage of facemasks. Wearing facemasks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects. These include hypoxia, hypercapnia, shortness of breath, increased acidity and toxicity, activation of fear and stress response, rise in stress hormones, immunosuppression,
    fatigue, headaches, decline in cognitive performance, predisposition for viral and infectious illnesses, chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Long-term consequences of wearing facemask can cause health deterioration, developing and progression of chronic diseases and premature
    death. Governments, policy makers and health organizations should utilize prosper and scientific evidence-based approach with respect to wearing facemasks, when the latter is considered as preventive intervention for public health.”

    Table 1 contains NO data. It is a summary of adverse psychological and physical effects of mask wearing derived from numerous academic sources which the author cites. Presumably, those sources have the data. The retraction does not contest the validity of those sources, which do NOT include 16,17, 25 and 26, which the author is accused of selectively quoting from.

    What a farce. Science and truth are being erased from the internet.

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  2. With all that’s happened in between and now with this latest bizarre admission from the academic elite that Covid sceptics are smart and know how to use the scientific method and how to process data effectively and expertly, I was right to call out very early on the parallels between Covid and Climate scepticism, but as usual, came under fire for doing so. I wrote this on July 2nd 2020, even before the mask mandate was introduced by Pol Pot Belly:

    “It is an article of faith: climate change is dangerous. Dare to criticise that view and, as a non scientist, you will be labelled a ‘climate denier’ and a crank. As a scientist, you will also be called a denier and a crank, as well as being ex-communicated, ostracised, hounded, disciplined, humiliated, vilified, cancelled, forced out of your job even. Dare to question the validity of epidemiological models which portray Covid-19 as a killer pandemic which, without lockdown, will cut through the populace like a knife, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and overwhelming health services and you are similarly frowned upon by the prevailing epidemiological oligarchy.

    Michael Levitt questioned very early on whether the virus was as dangerous as it was being portrayed, thus questioning the measures being put in place to mitigate its impact, but he was drowned out by howls of outrage from the domain experts using human lives as their shield and wielding the formidable ‘precautionary principle’ as their sword.”

    The response I got from a founding member of that website was to set the tone for a long series of disagreements, often very personal, which ended in my leaving the site as a contributor.

    “The pragmatic issue we all face is which conflicts matter the most. Each of us needs to make that decision. I don’t personally find the UK’s stumbling efforts to find the right ways to deal with Covid-19 the second most important thing on Cliscep after the climate crisis scam.”

    The thing is, my judgment is that in the UK lockdown is ending. I don’t see Leicester as the thin end of the wedge but the thin end of the end. I could be wrong. Whatever parallels you see only matter to me if there is a vast harm to come as a result.

    Here’s one of the ways I don’t think Covid and Climate contrarianism can possibly be anything like the same and we shouldn’t pretend they are. I should say before I start that my sister’s close friend in her forties, who was badly infected with Covid-19, is still alive, which is truly amazing, but the damage done to her lungs is frightening. And I’ve been listening hard to Alan Kendall’s experience.”

    The conversation went from bad to worse after that, with members piling on to criticise my approach and the subject of vaccines came up. I wrote:

    “You see how it works now? The Vaccine is the ONLY thing that can save us from The Virus and all these nasty, horrible, repeated lockdowns, social distancing and masks which have become the necessary ‘new normal’ in order to fight off this killer plague. The Vaccine is the magic bullet that will end all our suffering, but we have to believe in the Science and the pharmaceutical experts who have certified that it is safe and effective. Get vaccinated – ‘for the greater good’. Those who resist are not looking at science and facts, they are relying upon ‘feelings’ and social media misinformation campaigns.”

    https://cliscep.com/2020/07/02/covid-climate-contrarianism-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/#comment-55901

    The reply I got was:

    “I’ll be first in the queue, taking the jab for my benefit. If having had it means I’ll go back to the cinema and other such places I’m avoiding right now, you could say it was for the greater good too. Of course there are risks, & a bad vaccine could make matters worse. But since they’re being tested already, I don’t see how such a rogue vaccine is gonna make it to mass production.”

    This foreshadowed the straw which broke the camel’s back which eventually led to my complete departure. All of this happened nearly a year ago. Look where we are now, with ‘vaccines’ causing people to test positive, causing ‘outbreaks’ all over the world, being associated with huge numbers of very serious adverse reactions including deaths, and now Pol Pot Belly and his cohorts in SAGE threatening not to end the current, ongoing lockdown (despite millions having been ‘vaccinated’) if the ‘dangerous’ Indian triple variant (which ‘may’ escape the vaccines) carries on spreading across the UK. Tell me I wasn’t substantially correct about almost everything re. the alleged ‘Covid crisis’ at the beginning of July last year.

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  3. You were nearly right.
    In fact the vaccine that doesn’t do anything useful in relieving the ‘need’ for other restrictions hasn’t quite been the magic bullet. It’s worse than even you thought.
    I have to admit that my attitude to medical people both theorists and doctors has been jaundiced ever since they tried to poison me with statins, to which I appear to be allergic. After many months, I found that I had to diagnose the problem myself via internet and raise it with the doctor before they reluctantly admitted I could have a problem. Telling them symptoms in the meantime aroused no suggestions for change. Then we went through trying different doses and different types. Finally I told them to F-off and leave me alone. Since then, my universal rule is research anything they want to do to you very thoroughly, and almost always I find that the cost/benefit is not all that clearly favourable.
    I might have once, but I’m not now someone who would take an unproven treatment in order to go to the cinema, or even so that everyone else commends me for being a good citizen.
    It seems that all my lifetime we’ve been letting governments impose small things, which seem ‘quite reasonable’ – too little to make a big fuss about. Only people who lived behind the iron curtain really know how dangerous this is and they have warned about it for years. Now I suddenly see their point.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. They tried me with the statins Geoff, after I suffered a spontaneous coronary arterial dissection, due to very high blood pressure, even though my blood cholosterol level was normal and I was obviously not suffering from arterial disease. I rejected them outright, already aware of the very serious side effects. They dish them out like smarties whenever they can. I guess it ‘pays’ to prescribe them as frequently as possible. I didn’t completely trust the medical profession 5 years ago. I have zero trust in their motivations now, notwithstanding obviously that they must still employ millions who take seriously their duty to ‘first do no harm’ – but those individuals must now be very seriously conflicted. It is a matter of huge regret that they have not come out en masse, or even in small but significant numbers, to question what is going on in their own industry. The reason – censorship, fear and brainwashing.

    Many are realising now what I said last year – “your government means you great harm”. Even if you remove the malign intent part, you are still left with the inevitable conclusion that, in the pursuit of financial and/or political gain, working hand in hand with each other, our government and Big Pharma have conspired to do us great harm as an inevitable ‘unintended consequence’ of their overarching ambitions. They do not care for us. At all. This ‘Covid crisis’ has nothing whatsoever to do with public health. Hence, in Switzerland right now:

    This familiar pattern was repeated all over the world. It is inconceivable that this was merely the random result of some emergent behaviour. It is almost certain that malign, criminal intent was involved from the word go and that they were working to a pre-planned blueprint. Anybody who claims different is just not looking at the facts.

    In the UK:

    “Scientists on a committee that encouraged the use of fear to control people’s behaviour during the Covid pandemic have admitted its work was “unethical” and “totalitarian”.

    Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) expressed regret about the tactics in a new book about the role of psychology in the Government’s Covid-19 response.

    SPI-B warned in March last year that ministers needed to increase “the perceived level of personal threat” from Covid-19 because “a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened”.

    Gavin Morgan, a psychologist on the team, said: “Clearly, using fear as a means of control is not ethical. Using fear smacks of totalitarianism. It’s not an ethical stance for any modern government. By nature I am an optimistic person, but all this has given me a more pessimistic view of people.”

    Mr Morgan spoke to author Laura Dodsworth, who has spent a year investigating the Government’s tactics for her book A State of Fear, published on Monday.

    Ministers have faced repeated accusations that they ramped up the threat from the pandemic to justify lockdowns and coerce the public into abiding by them – a claim that will be examined by the forthcoming public inquiry into the pandemic response.”

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/05/14/scientists-admit-totalitarian-use-fear-control-behaviour-covid/

    Despite the admissions, the same fear tactics are still being used, now in order to coerce people into getting needlessly vaccinated.

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