Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former-Albert Einstein
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom- Isaac Asimov
Quacks are the greatest liars in the world, except their patients-Benjamin Franklin
Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes- Groucho Marx
Statistics are easy to track. The reporting of them at this stage of the pandemic has been quite efficient and in that efficiency, quite alarming. As of this writing there have been more than 2,393,032 cases of coronavirus worldwide and 759,134 cases in the US. Death from Covid-19 at this point worldwide is 164,565 and in the US 40,265. Since I began this paragraph worldwide infection has risen by over 1,100. My city alone, New York, has lost 12,712. So far. On Friday alone there were 722 deaths here. But the last 24-hour period saw a decrease to under 600. That’s great but we must remember that what we are celebrating is not a stoppage on the action but rather only losing 600 or so people who normally would still be laughing, loving and living among us.
That’s enough of that. Trying to keep pace with such numbers is like trying to keep up with a cheetah in pursuit of dinner. You’ll never catch it and if you do you’ll likely regret it. The only way to put an end to this until a vaccine, significant viral treatments and testing are made widely available, is to continue to honor the protocols suggested by those entrusted with the mammoth job of navigating this crisis, like Dr. Anthony Fauci. But a D and R. in front of a name does not necessarily carry the type of credentialing required for the delivery of accurate advice to a national TV audience on the subject of pandemics and pathogens. It helps if that name has an MD trailing it as well. We should be concerned if the DR. is an honorific not even remotely medical in nature. As well, such MD’s should be experts in this particular arena of medicine. Would you seek your dentist’s advice regarding a hernia operation? How about consulting with a PhD in Art History on a new experimental drug for a stage four cancer treatment for yourself or a family member? Maybe it would be helpful to hear from a veterinarian regarding your doctoral thesis on the sociological implications of Charles Dickens writings during the Industrial Revolution in 19th century London. Well, at least in that case if their advice stinks nobody dies. And I must confess I have met some well-read vets.
Dr. Mehmet Oz does have an MD after his name. He is a cardiothoracic surgeon and I am willing to grant that he may even be a good one. He must be or else he may never have caught the attention of first the Discovery Channel and then Oprah Winfrey. His pedigree is impressive. Undergraduate work at Harvard, Masters and MD from the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University professor. Sort of an Ivy League medical triple crown winner. His promotion of various alternative medicines has been criticized from time to time, but I imagine there has been some value to this for people who are struggling to find answers for suffering which traditional Western medicine has been unable to supply.
But Dr. Oz aside from surgeon, lecturer ,professor, is a lot of other things as well including endorser of unproven medical products, faith healer, paranormal practitioner and TV star. And it is this last title that is most troubling for it fosters a legitimacy to a large audience who trust him implicitly. Dr. Oz does have an MD after his name but being a cardiothoracic surgeon does not qualify him to be offering scientific opinions to the masses on the subject of pandemics. He is not an immunologist, epidemiologist or a virologist. He does not have the same background fighting infectious disease as any of the lifelong public health specialists at the NIH or the CDC. Yet certain media organizations masquerading as news outlets have taken to conflating the opinions of TV stars with that of serious scientists and public health experts to promote political fortunes and the profits of billionaires. It is irresponsible, disgusting, and ultimately hazardous.
Using him as the spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down to the public in the form of intelligent dissemination of the experts advice might not be a bad thing, so long as his position is made abundantly clear to all of Dr. Oz worshipers. And, importantly, as long as he does not stray from that position. It is nothing short of egregious for him to offer dangerous opinions about what protocols society can dispense with. No Dr. Oz, I am not fine with sacrificing 3% of our school children to get the economy up and running again. Nor do I believe that you should be filling the president’s head with hydroxychloroquine stories, at least until the current studies are finished. This can make it difficult for lupus, malaria, and arthritis patients (whom it is actually proscribed for presently) to acquire it. People have already died from this type of self-medication. Remember that oath to first do no harm?
But at least, Dr. Oz is an MD, the same cannot be said of Dr. Phil McGraw. His degree is in clinical psychology, not psychiatry which would have at least given him the MD after his name, although he would still be unqualified to proffer advice on something like this pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped those same masquerading “news” outlets from using him to promote dangerous opinions devoid of factual foundations to legions of fawning admirers who may very well spread the contagion based on his words. Not only is the not so good doctor not a practitioner of medicine but apparently he is not even any longer a practitioner of psychology, as he lacks a license to practice anywhere in the United States. This is not the first time he has used the DR in front of his name to promote something dishonestly. He was sued in a class action suit in 2005 for his promotion of weight loss products, which as a psychologist and not a physician he had not the expertise to do. He settled the suit in 2006 for $10.5 million. Can you say quack, quack?
Remember the PTL Club? Remember Jim and Tammy Bakker? Let me refresh your memory. Once upon a time there was a show called the PTL Club which aired on the eponymously named PTL Satellite Network. Jim Bakker and his wife were the hosts and between the PTL of praising the lord they engaged in the PTL of Passing the Loot. At least that is what Federal prosecutors believed when they unveiled a combined 24 counts of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy on Rev. Jim in 1988. He was convicted on all counts. All of this after a 1987 payment from church funds, of $279,000 to a former 21-year old church secretary in return for her silence stemming from her rape allegations against him during a 1980 encounter. His 45-year sentence was reduced with the assistance of celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz acting as his parole attorney. In his statement to the court Mr. Dershowitz said that he “would guarantee that Mr. Bakker would never again engage in the blend of religion and commerce that led to his conviction.” Today Jim Bakker hosts another salvation gab fest where he has been hawking supplements claiming to cure the coronavirus in hours. He has been slapped with a lawsuit from the State of Missouri as well as cease and desist letters from the Attorney General of the State of New York , the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. So much for that Dershowitz guarantee. Quack, quack, quack!
The governor of Florida refused to close the beaches during spring break and hundreds of college kids headed back to their home states infected. He insisted that people would voluntarily self-distance but too much photographic evidence exists to the contrary. Shades of the 2017 inauguration which purported to be the biggest of all time. Eventually he relented. On Saturday, the day he reopened the beaches, Florida saw an uptick of 223 more cases and 8 more deaths. The governor of Texas is doing pretty much the same thing. The peaks in their respective states are not expected until April 29th in Florida and May 3rd in Texas. Quack, quack to the highest power.
And then there is this, from White House counsel and spin maker extraordinaire Kelly Anne Conway who thought the best way to achieve her boss’s political agenda would be to attack the knowledgeable people:
“This is COVID-19, not COVID-1, folks. And so you would think that people charged with the World Health Organization facts and figures would be on top of that.”
Covid-19 refers to the year the virus made its first appearance, not its place in line behind 18 other Covids. Thirty minutes later in an interview with another Foxian friend, Maria Bartiromo, she walked back her earlier comment. Did she say she just got it plain wrong and apologize? No, instead she said she always knew what it meant but was trying to make the point about the inefficiency of the WHO and how American dollars are being wasted funding it. For the life of me I do not see how that explains the raw sewage of her language in or out of the context. No matter, when you are the inventor of “alternative facts” anything is possible. But as the saying goes, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck…well, you know the rest.
Please honor the protocols and continue to be wary of those who will use any means necessary to separate you from your money and possibly your very life all for the sake of their own greed or political gain. Make informed decisions about what is right for you and your family. Verify information. Don’t take information at face value simply because that face is possessed of a winning grin and the person wearing it sports a flag lapel pin. When you have doubt, ask questions of informed and credible sources. I am a blogger, and not a credentialed journalist. While I do my best to honor journalistic principles and fact check using multiple sources I am ultimately capable of error. So do not take anything I write as the final word on anything. I am giving opinions, guided by whatever research I have done but occasionally the sources themselves may be faulty. It is after all just a view from a ledge. We are all on a ledge now, the trick is to avoid the temptation to jump. By disseminating my views in such a manner, it is incumbent on me to follow some basic journalistic principles and first among those is honesty. I owe this to you, and you owe it to yourselves. Stay strong.