Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

The Internet, Conspiracies, Science & Assumptions

When you hear something on the Internet it seems easy to say it is a conspiracy theory.  After all, what are the person’s credentials, what are his sources, where is the evidence and what assumptions are being made? This thought process began when I tweeted about the possibility that H1N1 being a man made virus released and marketed as a pandemic. I had used sources that pushed an anti-vaccine agenda, not stating things as a possibility, but as a fact. This was too much for a medically trained researcher who tweeted me back that everything was not a conspiracy. So I found an interview of a medical doctor quoting the ingredients, precautions and contraindications of the  insert of the H1N1 vaccine and doubting it’s safety and efficacy. The trained researcher then asked where are the peer-reviewed studies by virologists in a scholarly journals?  With a bit more research, I found one that asked the same question. So he flat out said that vaccines were safe and cited credentials. Whereupon I found another study, yet to be replicated, that suggested that season flu vaccine might double the chance of getting H1N1. Silence. Later he assured me I would not find more.

Granted, I did start out with a poor source.  Granted, I did not start with a credible studies.  This was not careful science, but I would suggest that the summary dismissal of information from any source is also not science. The bearer of the information is not the information.  The arguments I saw being posed, even if the poser did not see them as just arguments, looked to me as valid questions because I come from a true place of skeptical science.  I don’t care about credentials, nor do true scholarly journals, the information speaks for itself, no matter how poorly stated.  Well designed studies speak for themselves.  So does true investigative journalism.  No conclusions need to be stated. The evidence should be before your eyes.

So often when something is shown on the Internet it may appear to be a Just So story.  However, that does not mean that is.  True science must question everything, including its own assumptions.  The first assumption I questioned in the H1N1 story is how did they know that it was going to be a pandemic?  It was stated that the type of virus suggested it would be.  How did they know that the type of virus was going to act in this way? It had components of other pandemic viruses. How did these components separated vastly in time and space get into one organism?  Good question.  Medical science had no good answers, but under the pandemic assumption they had to fast track the vaccine to market and in many places mandated its administration (to health care workers).  Does this not sound like a scarier prospect than the H1N1 virus itself?

Sources?  Credentials?  Let us consider the medical researcher first.  The training in medicine suggests a high concern for life.  The training in science suggests a high concern for truth. Be that as it may, when faced with what you are told is an impending world-wide crisis, the practice of medicine becomes more of an art, and the practice that it is, and the science has no time to carefully replicate or deeply question its findings.  This would not be the first time that errors have happened in such situations.  So, the question now comes to sources. Well, the validity of my credible sources we will hear more about soon enough, I will let you consider a more conspiratorial one here.  The the source of the rushed vaccine trails was Sanofi-Pasteur and CLS Biotherapies which may not at all be reason for concern. The FDA has approved the trials, again no apparent reason for concern. But then, I think to myself about the HPV Gardisil hype.  Are we going to again scare the people into immunizing millions and mandating some no less, perhaps with thousands of negative reactions, for an illness that lethally afflicts only hundreds of people.  This would be a scandal on its face in the public health world. None of this appears to have happened with this vaccine.  So was it all just another conspiracy theory? Maybe, but still aren’t we looking more at dollar signs here than lives?  Isn’t this the real problem with all aspects of healthcare in the USA?  Are my assumptions here that off base and paranoid? Then someone tweeted me about a Murdoch connection to this and another drug company in the UK. Is your skin crawling yet?

I began looking at the drug approval process used by the FDA.  In general, regulators don’t negotiate budgets with the companies they oversee. However, the FDA, is paid user’s fee in the millions of dollars to fast track drug approvals. This funds half of the critical drug approval process.  I now begin to wonder how much the FDA might have been paid for the fast track of  the vaccine that resulted in the almost 200 million dollars in contracts to provide vaccine to the United States population and how this process must ripple around the world to be effective.

So we have a suspect illness, a suspect regulator, and suspect research with millions of dollars invested by each organization in multiple products.  None of this should be questioned by me, even if some credible sources with real vested interests in science and health question it? Am I to accept the paranoid label from a trained medical researcher that have a vested interest in their education, training, and marketability even if they don’t directly work in the field? I don’t think this is clear thinking to do so, but then I am just another fuzzy headed thinker.  So you can dismiss me and feel no peril.

The issues of relying on the conspiracy sources are real nonetheless. I must fairly note that much of the originally tweeted information has been discredited apparently and is it still oft repeated.  This may have been the point of my original detractor, after all, don’t I keep on pointing out that a source with a history of misinformation is not to be relied upon?  Yet, even when I say it is not to be trusted, I mean it is not to be trusted on its face. There may be a real question in all the noise.  Where is the evidence, I often ask, was the original probe given to me by the detractor. I looked for the evidence based on my assumptions, ignoring the glaring inaccuracies and leaps in the original links.  So much for communication in 140 characters. So much for taking or dismissing  information on face value.

Ishtarmuz’s Rebuttal to: Journalism and Freedom by Rupert Murdoch

This is Ishtarmuz’s rebuttal to : Journalism and Freedom :Government assistance is a greater threat to the press than any new technology. By RUPERT MURDOCH

We are at a time when many news enterprises are shutting down… some tell you that journalism is in dire shape, and the triumph of digital is to blame.

My message is just the opposite. The future of journalism is more promising than ever—limited only by editors and producers unwilling to fight for their readers and viewers, or government using its heavy hand either to over regulate or subsidize us.

No, you are correct, the straw man of progress is not to blame.  Those that think and use old models of thought are to blame. Vertical organizations built on authoritarian control from above limiting the choices of information usage based on a worldview of property that never held sway in the arena of ideas are to blame.  If the old worldview is to survive, then we will all have to become slaves, not only in the marketplace of commerce, but to the marketplace of ideas as well. Horizontal networks are cooperative and share information and profit. This is anathema to old world greed.

Note the thought process here. It is all out war between private contenders. The interference of government imposing rules, such as ‘don’t let the pirates kill each other’, is wholly unfair to such winning combatants as Kevin Rupert Murdoch. The problem with this is that no man is an island and no one does it by himself or herself.  We form an interdependent community that remains healthy only by a commitment to all.

From the beginning, newspapers have prospered for one reason: the trust that comes from representing their readers’ interests and giving them the news that’s important to them. That means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful.

A bit of truth and honesty is always good in an opinion piece, though I think it might have been better as an opener.

Technology now allows us to do this on a much greater scale. That means we have the means to reach billions of people who until now have had no honest or independent sources of the information they need to rise in society, hold their governments accountable, and pursue their needs and dreams.

Yes, people need to rise up and hold the real government accountable, all those multinational business interests pulling the strings behind the scenes.  Interesting how a half-truth is so much more convincing than an out and out lie.

… Some newspapers and news organizations will not adapt to the digital realities of our day—and they will fail. We should not blame technology for these failures. The future of journalism … [to] find new and better ways to meet the needs of their viewers, listeners, and readers.

So it is not the digital success, but the not taking advantage of it, that is at issue. What you are saying is that it needs to be harnessed. Harnessed means controlled, but you don’t want it controlled except by the pirates of the old model.  When you suggest finding better ways to meet the needs of customers, what you mean is to bottom feed off the baser instincts of your customers.

…give people the news they want. I can’t tell you how many papers I have visited where they have a wall of journalism prizes—and a rapidly declining circulation. This tells me the editors are producing news for themselves—instead of news that is relevant to their customers…

Rome gave people what they wanted.  That’s it; maybe we need to feed more liberals to the lions? Surely that is it.  How could that be irrelevant? Keeping journalists with pesky Pulitzers working is not the business of a news organization.

His article then goes on for a bit stating how the old business model no longer working and explaining how he is maneuvering to make more money. Then, not satisfied with his empire based on winning court cases, he bemoans the FCC.

One example of outdated thinking is the FCC’s cross-ownership rule that prevents people from owning, say, a television station and a newspaper in the same market. Many of these rules were written when competition was limited because of the huge up-front costs. If you are a newspaper today, your competition is not necessarily the TV station in the same city. It can be a Web site on the other side of the world, or even an icon on someone’s cell phone.

And you have effectively been arguing this in court into a global monopoly for years. You have won the battle.  Now what do you want?  Full capitulation? Murdoch’s business model, like Monsanto’s, is model based on the Borg.  Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

After a few drum beats for the value of “free” market capitalism, he comes to this:

In my view, the growing drumbeat for government assistance for newspapers is as alarming as over regulation. One idea gaining in popularity is providing taxpayer funds for journalists. Or giving newspapers “nonprofit” status—in exchange, of course, for papers giving up their right to endorse political candidates. The most damning problem with government “help” is what we saw with the bailout of the U.S. auto industry: Help props up those who are producing things that customers do not want.

Yes, unbridled free market capitalism can sell you just about anything with the right marketing, even bogus gold coins, insurance, legal services, deadly chemicals, drugs and all manner of products we don’t need.  The needs of the consumers are created in the same way the taste in the news is created by the selective attention of the broadcaster. It would be a shame (for you) for broadcasting to follow a nonprofit model and really make the news independent of politics.

The prospect of the U.S. government becoming directly involved in commercial journalism ought to be chilling for anyone who cares about freedom of speech. The Founding Fathers knew that the key to independence was to allow enterprises to prosper and serve as a counterweight to government power. It is precisely because newspapers make profits and do not depend on the government for their livelihood that they have the resources and wherewithal to hold the government accountable.

You mean like the news organizations being independent of big corporations like Monsanto? Anything that you say or represent when so placed must by definition fall within the purview of commercial speech.



Mr. Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corp. The [original WSJ] article was adapted from his Dec. 1 remarks before the Federal Trade Commission’s workshop on journalism and the Internet.

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