by Carl V Phillips
Last week there was a flurry of discussion about a call by UCSF’s ANTZ queen, Ruth Malone (and endorsed by that institutions chief ANTZ liar, Stanton Glantz), for a boycott of FDA proceedings that involved a dialog with tobacco companies. The demand that actual stakeholders be excluded from policy, in favor of just leaving it to the self-appointed busybodies, is so utterly insane that I am not even going to bother to respond to it. Others have done so. And I certainly do not want to try to talk them out of the boycott like others have — if they want to let their megalomania and obsessions lead them to stay out of the discussion, but all means let them.
But the discussion surrounding this has starkly illustrated one particular delusion that seems endemic among the ANTZ, something that is common among non-thinking fanatics, and can be observed in various areas where people let their ideology determine their “facts”: the belief that the one’s opponents are just like oneself, only in support of an opposing ideology, the mirror image delusion. As a genuine delusion, this is not actually a lie, though it is the cause of numerous lies. (Recall the position of this blog that actively affirming a false claim out of ignorance is still a lie if there is an explicit or implicit claim of expertise; even if you view inexcusable ignorance as different from a lie, there is still the lie about the expertise. But this does not represent a claim of expertise.)
The clearest example of the mirror image delusion is that the ANTZ do not hesitate to corrupt scientific inquiry, lie about scientific results, and otherwise produce stinking pools of junk- and pseudo-science, and so they assume that their opponents have the same lack of concern about good science and ethics. The calls by Malone and company to forbid stakeholder involvement are obviously transparent attempts to keep everyone but their fanatical minority out of the policy process. But they attempt to justify the claim with something they seem to actually believe: that the tobacco companies, and even the consumers (see, e.g., the previous posts about Glantz trying to censor consumers’ own testimonials about their success with THR), are liars.
The reality, of course, is that both the tobacco industry and THR consumer advocates conduct high-quality scientific research which is basically never challenged by the ANTZ. Despite how glaringly clear this is, and despite the fact that the ANTZ surly must be aware that they never, in fact, find any evidence of lying or even aggressive spinning by the tobacco industry and other serious researchers and commentators, for many ANTZ these claims seem to be more than a mere tactic. They seem to really believe them. The only apparent explanation is that the ANTZ’s delusion leads them to assume that the people they are attacking must be as dishonest as they are, despite no evidence to support that claim.
One of the reasons the ANTZ never challenge the accuracy and honesty of their opponent’s research and analysis is that they would lose. They have no ground to stand on. As far as I am aware, no ANTZ has ever even tried to refute the arguments presented in this blog, and that is perfectly typical of their behavior. However, I believe that another explanation is that they really do not think there is any point in disputing a claim because they do not pay any attention when someone disproves one of their claims, and they (falsely) assume their opponents act the same way. I, and most of us in THR, would withdraw a claim (whether it be a scientific claim, an analysis that shows someone is a liar, or anything else) if it were shown to be wrong or even merely seriously disputable.
But the ANTZ basically never withdraw anything they have ever said, no matter how obviously false, and their mirror image delusion means that they are incapable of understanding that others act differently. That is, they do not fail to debate merely because they would lose the debate (they would, but they often clearly are so clueless that they do not realize that), but because they live in an echo chamber and ignore everyone else, and so think that is true of everyone else also.
Another example relates specifically to their attempts to censor the stories of ex-smokers who have successfully used THR. They claim that somehow all of the consumers reporting this evidence are corrupt and are only doing it on behalf of “industry”. This seems to reflect several different bits of mirror image delusion. Most of the ANTZ would never take the time to do anything they were not being paid for, and are themselves often doing the bidding of their paymasters. For many, their delusions make them incapable of understanding that consumers and the rest of us who are genuinely concerned with public health do not behave that way. Even more important, they know that most of the “public health” people who repeat the ANTZ lies are unthinking useful idiots who are acting entirely due to the manipulation by others (i.e., by the ANTZ leaders), and so they assume it must be true of the consumers too.
Perhaps most important, returning to the topic of junk science, the ANTZ do not actually care what information their “research” provides, and so they assume the same is true for their opponents. They do not care whether or not a study shows some genuine reason to be concerned about a health effect; they just want to cook up results that seem to show a bad effect in order to support their ideology. Their mirror image delusion prevents them from understanding that actual stakeholders — the people who have some real stake in THR, as opposed to the busybodies who have no stake and so are happy to sit on the outside and lob bombs at it — care quite a lot about the science. Their failure to grasp this obvious non-similarity means that they assume that our scientific analysis must be like theirs — an attempt to support an ideology, rather than an attempt to understand and perhaps improve people’s health.
I suspect there are other good examples. If any come to mind, I welcome them in the comments.
Absolutely spot on… We have a clear parallel in Europe – the anti-THR proponents simply will not engage in reasoned argument. A member of the European Parliament, Christian Engström, has even invited them to make their case after they sent him a letter demanding the continued banning of snus. Rather than make their case, they simply refused to meet him.
I think there are several other examples. Most glaring is the green movement’s response to shale gas and long-standing opposition to nuclear power despite its stated objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. No difficulties with these unapproved technologies is too small to amplify and turn into a reason to reject. On the other hand, no technical weakness or cost burden of renewables is so serious that it cannot be ignored or rationalised away. Having tried to engage with data and analysis, I’ve concluded that these campaigners support energy technologies in the same way they support their favourite soccer teams.
Other examples might include the green movement on GM, ‘trade justice’ campaigners on trade liberalisation, development groups opposed to private sector involvement in water, organic food campaigners, and anything to do with religions and their various gods.
Ah, good point on that “favorite teams” thing. (Though I think that needs to either be “favorite soccer teams” or “favourite football clubs” — if you are going to translate into American, you have to lose the extra “u” :-) I agree that an enormous amount of political opinion is based on just cheering for “your team”, and note that in some of my analysis, but did not think of it in this context. Clearly a large portion of the ANTZ, and especially their cadres of useful idiots, are acting this way. They are no longer even motivated by ideology, let alone by some defensible goal, but purely by some base jingoism. In fairness, the mirror image is present to some extent, if you cast a broad enough net: Many vocal supporters of e-cigarettes seem inclined to object to anything that does not seem to offer blind support for “their team”. Some are as guilty of blindly lashing out at anything they perceive to not being fully supportive of “team e-cig”, which is counterproductive in any number of ways.
But restricting the assessment to the respected leaders in THR, the mirror fails. Those on the THR side are genuinely interested in finding any flaws in their view. ANTZ do not actually care whether THR products are harmful or not, they just want propaganda to show that they are. We do not want to just cheer for anything that says “no risk” and cheer against anything that say “apparent risk” — we really want to know.
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Absolutely correct. Your comments are supported by the numerous accusations by public health “advocates” that literally everyone on Twitter refuting their preposterous statements are industry shills. That there are actually private citizens who feel that e-cigarettes are so important that they are willing to argue at length in defense of them and do so armed with data which completely contradicts public health’s statements, is beyond them.
They routinely block Twitter users for the sole reason of refuting their statements in any way, even though the comments are for the most part reasonable and respectful. I recently was blocked by a public health “professional” just for responding to the ancient, unsubstantiated and unscientific rumor of e-cigs causing popcorn lung. Just one response to her, with the simple statement that there had never been an instance of popcorn lung in a human that was attributed to vaping. Blocked.
If “public health” can’t hold a discussion with that public they claim to be helping, and spend their time residing in the echo chamber of their own making, deriding the public and disregarding public comment out of hand, just exactly what is their purpose other than to be a self-sustaining income machine, designed solely to enrich themselves? If this is true, and I firmly believe it is, the concept of real public health is dead and the whole industry is void of validity. Time to shut them down by any means necessary.
Thanks for the comment. Very good observations.
Just in the last day or so, I jumped into a Twitter thread where a PH professional was complaining that people were trying to get her fired (which was apparently based on a single comment from someone with no such influence). I had to explain to her that she was being absurd, that she faced no threat, but that her ilk launch concerted and power/money-backed campaigns to get anyone who questions their orthodoxy fired.
Or to paraphrase what we each said: A bunch of fucking whiners who are happy to brutalize others but want cushy safe spaces for themselves.
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