Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Dangers of Censorship: Static Science, Diminished Liberty, and a Population in the Dark

A few weeks ago I made a post on Linkedin.com that cited a report on the apparent media censorship of information on a certain compound that many doctors were finding helpful in treating COVID patients at an early stage. The article summarized the latest peer-reviewed findings and argued that the media's reliance on only the negative studies, even one that was fraudulent and had to be withdrawn, was putting the nation at risk and reflected harmful and inappropriate bias. I said that "if this story is true, it will decrease my respect for the media." I was not saying that everyone should start taking any particular medication, but was pointing to an article offering a different perspective on the debate around COVID treatments in light of scientific studies. I wanted some feedback and thought it was something worth considering, while also being worried about the possibility of media bias (or censorship) on that topic.

Shortly after sharing that post, a doctor I know who liked what I had shared told me that my post had just been censored. I had received no notice, but when I tried to view it, I saw a warning indicating that I had violated LinkedIn policies. The crime was linking to something not fully aligned with WHO policies. From a scientific viewpoint, I found that troubling, for science is inherently tentative. The scientific method is about continually recognizing that we don't know everything and being willing to test previous conclusions or explore new hypotheses, learning from the surprises, the exceptions, and the unexpected results. To say that what we think we know now is the Final Answer and that data, however anecdotal, challenging the Ruling Paradigm must be hushed is anti-science and potentially dangerous. 

If social media had been in force a century ago, one scientist might have received this notice:

Dear Mr. Einstein, your account has been suspended for providing false scientific information. Scientists have established that Newtonian physics governs the universe. Your statements about "quantum theory" and "relativity" contradict mainstream physics and are thus false. 

The power of elite officials to stifle debate and contrarian data about a reigning scientific paradigm cost the lives of tens of thousands of British sailors who died from scurvy during the two centuries after it was demonstrated that adding fresh fruits and vegetables to the sailors' diet seemed to prevent scurvy. Such data contradicted the proclamations of Aristotle on the source of disease from mysterious vapors. It cost thousands of lives in Europe after the medical establishment rejected the compelling data from Ignacz Semmelweis on the possibility that something unseen on hands (germs) was transmitting deadly disease. Doctors continued to deliver babies or conduct operations without washing their hands, even though they may have been dissecting a corpse shortly before going to the delivery ward in their studies as students in European medical schools. Semmelweis's own supervisor who had seen his excellent results in reducing mortality through careful handwashing and cleansing of medical instruments continued to focus on the hospital's ventilation system as the cause of disease rather than handwashing because, after all, Aristotle must not be doubted. He was rejected and it would be decades before "germ theory" would finally be accepted and safer medical practices would be implemented. (A short summary of his work and life, and his own failure as a change agent, is at "Ignaz Semmelweis and the birth of infection control" by M. Best and D. Neuhauser.)

But the scientific need for openness about scientific information is less important than for America's need for freedom of speech, a freedom viewed by our Founding Fathers as essential for the American experiment. I am not saying that all nations need to emulate that experiment. I'll leave it to other nations to decide how to live and don't want to meddle. China, for example, has quite a different system, and many of my friends in China will tell me that based on China's history, its peoples, and its needs, its approach to government must be different. Further, as an outsider, I have no right to tell China how to do things. But here in America, for our people, our systems, and based on our history, I believe freedom of speech is essential for a free Republic to flourish. And it is essential for religious freedom as well, for minority religions such as ours need to be able to share our information and views without government or coalitions of opponents silencing that voice.

My little taste of censorship was nothing compared to what is happening nationwide. What I am about to say now will be misinterpreted as being politically motivated. Maybe even as Russian disinformation. But as my mentor, Vladimir Putin, instructed me to say in my weekly guidance chat last night, that's ridiculous. I have profound disappointment and concerns about both of our political parties and do not trust either party or their candidates for President. But my trust dips even lower when it comes to our media, including the giants of social media, in their willingness to silence dissent. 

If you get your news from CNN, Facebook, or Twitter, you might not have any idea what I'm talking about. You might not know about a certain insider to one family that has come forward in an explosive interview with a certain journalist Tucker C. (yeah, I'm afraid to give too much info lest I overstep some invisible line for sharing harmful information) confirming many details related to prior story from a New York newspaper that was brazenly censored by social media outlets, another story you may not have heard about, except perhaps for a quick "fact check" declaration that it's all "Russian disinformation -- now move along folks, there's nothing there to worry about." 

Both presidential candidates have serious problems and I can understand why good people might refuse to vote for either one, or might prefer either one over the other. My point is not about which candidate is the lesser evil, but about the brazen censorship on news related to some critical controversies that would be considered news in any other era. Such censorship not only includes blocking links to certain news sources, suppressing videos, or hiding the sources in search results, but shutting down or freezing their accounts or demonetizing their accounts. Even some who rely on Mailchimp for reaching large groups via email are allegedly finding their accounts are being closed and their massive email databases are locked up if they share information that Mailchimp doesn't like, as just happened to two independent news organizations.

It's looking like an all-out war to prevent "harmful information" from reaching the masses, even when that information may be highly credible and confirmed from multiple sources. The media and their allies are creating new standards as excuses to reject and censor information. If you were around in the days of the Watergate scandal, imagine an alternate universe with all the same facts but a media totally dedicated to supporting Nixon. Imagine a populace who had never heard of Watergate, and reporters who were punished for even asking questions about what happened. Imagine having your business suddenly crippled in its ability to market or reach customers because you said something unfavorable to Nixon that social media giants and their allies didn't like. Vote for either party or something else, but please be aware that broad censorship is at play these days. Your help is needed to support freedom of speech and denounce censorship.

In countries where censorship is the norm in the name of national security and stability, people learn to cope and are very careful about what they say. I lived in one such country for nine years, a country I respect in many ways and whose people I love, but it was so strange to come back to the US, relishing the thought of not needing to be constantly cautious and having American-style freedom of speech, only to find that I was now in a land where I had to be exceedingly careful to not express my nn-mainstream political views and where social media censorship would soon be pushed and praised by many. 

Other sovereign nations can choose what they do and I don't believe we should invade or otherwise meddle in their affairs. But the way of censorship, however useful and stabilizing it may seem in other lands, is not supposed to be the way of United States. Our success and our liberty has come from people being able to challenge ruling paradigms, whether political, social, commercial, religious, or scientific, such that we can propose something different or point out what is flawed. We can change and improve our world by speaking out about wrongdoing, bigotry, foolishness, racism, scientific error, bad dance moves, or whatever inspires us to speak. Free speech comes with the danger that many speakers will say things that are foolish or wrong at times, as has often been the case in science and is typically the case in pop culture, religion, and perhaps most fields, but we must never let one mortal man, one party, or one company or coalition of aligned companies like our social media giants assume that they are so wise, so omniscient, so beautifully woke, that they can decide what may be spoken and what may not. In a world that is increasingly politicized, our liberty depends on being able to speak and share information that may clash with the political desires of others, including those who want more power and control over our lives. We need to be civil and respectful in this, but at the same time must not be so hyper-sensitive as to become angry at dissenting voices. Persuasion, not force and censorship, should be the tool for change. 

Freedom of speech supports all our freedoms, and without it, all our freedoms can ultimately be at risk.


53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jeff. We can see which side is more fascistic, can we not? It's the side that likes to call the other side fascistic. People need to look beyond the static. For LDS, they can look to §101 and note that God inspired the Constitution, and determine which side supports it most fully, and which side gives it lip service.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Steve

Anonymous said...

There's absolutely nothing unconstitutional (much less fascistic) about a private company refusing to propagate views it disagrees with.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

The companies have public protections, yet their censorship directly influences many election outcomes. Because disfavored though legitimate political speech has been blatantly censored, the protections must go.

As revealed, their censorship standards are transparently squishy and party-driven. The company leaders are billionaires, but they have to live with their embarrassingly idiotic justifications.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:24, you say a platform should lose its Section 230 protections just because it censors certain material, but you don't explain why.

If Congress simply repeals Section 230, and platforms like FB and Twitter lose the liability protection it provides, wouldn't they have to censor more, rather than less, in order to protect themselves against getting sued into oblivion?

Alternately, if instead of repealing Section 230 Congress amends it so that platforms only lose their liability protection if they engage in some kind of moderation/censorship of posts, as FB and Twitter currently do, then in practical terms they will have to publish every sort of libel, sedition, propaganda, incitement, or just plain dangerous advice that the world's dictators, terrorists, and kooks want to put out there. FB would have to countenance a post calling for nutballs to show up at the next demonstration to kill police and giving explicit instructions for how to do so. The perverse effect of such a revision of Section 230 would be that FB could only escape civil liability for such a "cop-killer" post by publishing that post. That might make sense to you, but it doesn't make sense to me. Why make all social media like 8chan? And despite the bloviations of people like Ted Cruz, it doesn't make sense to Congress, either. People like Cruz will continue to gripe and hold stupid hearings, but the protections will remain.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

FB and Twitter are acting like Democrat super pacs, censoring political speech they don't like. They haven't been censoring much more dubious material that cuts the other way. Doesn't sound legal to me. There needs to be a change of some kind, or we're just going to end up with a Pravda-like system favoring the Democrat party. Party first and always. I hear the platform will take us to utopia. Except that when it doesn't, we'll just have to add to it, and force compliance, till we end up, many years hence, a nightmarish command and control nation. How wonderful that will be.

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't sound legal to me," writes Anon 7:47 of FB and Twitter censoring speech they don't want to publish.

Anon 7:47 could not be more wrong. Not only is FB and Twitter's censorship legal, regardless of how politically biased it is, it is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to have FB or Twitter publish something for them, no more than it gives Jeremy Runnels the right to have his views published in the Ensign. Freedom of the press belongs to the owner of the press.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

Two subjects 1. Jeff's hypocrisy, he hosts a forum and deletes for bogus reasons also. 2. Section 230.

Obviously anon 7:47 meant [shouldn't] be legal. The Washington Post gets sued and pays, but not into oblivion. But why should they have to pay at all if online only content hosters do not have to. Considering most media is all online, maybe all media should have Section 230 protections. Kinda of like how LDS reasoning should make everyone a prophet, prophets when they are right and fallible men when they are wrong.

If speech is not offensive, then it is not free. Last I check, there is plenty of offensive speech out there. That is essentially what the courts ruled regarding PragerU. Prager's claim of censorship is frivolous. The court essentially said, yes Youtube Democrats found a snide way of commenting on Prager with a cheesy age restriction, but so what? Prager was not significantly hindered from getting his message out.

https://reason.com/2019/11/04/judge-to-prageru-you-do-not-have-a-free-speech-claim-against-youtube/

Jeff Lindsay said...

I didn't say Google or Facebook was violating the law or the Constitution, but rather that they are censoring information to protect the Big Guy from harmful news including harmful facts. The stranglehold on information and the blatant censorship of all the news that doesn't fit their agenda should be a concern to all of us. Technically legal or not, it's an outrage, a threat to free speech, and an insult to intelligence.

So, OK, before my post, what have you read about Tony Bobulinski? What investigations of the money from Moscow or the money from other foreign nations to the B. family have you read? Or in all honesty, were you in the "Who is Tony B.?" camp? Did you read or see a single story about the jailing of an innocent man in the name of covering up an attempted coup? Doesn't it bother you that such newsworthy issues are being hidden from you by a handful of aligned parties with almost monopolistic control on the media that Americans receive unless they deliberately seek out alternative news sources that now don't show up near the top of Google search results or are actively punished on other platforms? Sites like DailyWire, Breitbart, ZeroHedge, Hotair, The Federalist, Judicial Watch, etc.? Ever run into any of those on your Twitter or Facebook feeds or your Google search results? Doesn't it bother you that the sites you trust are telling you a genuine story with solid facts should be ignored because it's "Russian disinformation" when it clearly is not? Does such dishonesty and manipulation not make you uncomfortable, even if you are happy that it's helping your candidate? Or does the end justify all means, no matter how blind it leaves you?

If a right-wing organization such as the former John Birch Society had a HUGE pile of money and ended up buying or controlling Google, Facebook and Twitter, and then gradually started burying liberal views and liberal outlets, even blocking the New York Times on Twitter, for example, and ensuring that only very conservative views were seen and that serious scandals in the lives of their candidates were hidden, would you be shrug your shoulders and say, "that's their right, nothing to worry about"? That might well be the response, if one only read their controlled news.

Part of the reason for the huge divide between Left and Right and the inability for meaningful conversations to occur these days is that one side tends to be utterly unaware of the issues and arguments that motivate the other side, for they get no exposure at all to them, while the Right can't evade the exposure to the views and arguments of CNN, etc. As a result, discussion across the aisle about the major scandals of the day or the disaster of CHAZ or the findings of science on late-term abortion can't occur because one side thinks there is nothing there and that whatever the other side is worried about is Russian disinformation or religious bigotry and just shows those who believe it are total idiots who deserve to be silenced because they must be bad people to hold such awful minority views. Eliminating the stranglehold on speech could help the nation have healthier conversations and perhaps less violence.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from "Censorship Of The Biden Story" by C. Farrell:

The destruction of journalistic ethics is nearly complete. The same group of reporters and pundits who rushed to report every rumor, every speculation, every lie about Donald Trump for the last four years now close ranks and refuse to report the emerging allegations about the Biden family.

Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptops have been a treasure trove of inside information about his reported influence peddling and shady deals, based entirely on his status as son of the vice president. It is obvious that Joe Biden supported his son’s dealings, and it may also be the case that the “big guy” directly profited from them. And it is now beyond question that Joe Biden used the power of his office to bully Ukraine to end an investigation into corruption at the energy firm Burisma, where his son inexplicably was a board member.

The New York Post has brought some of this evidence to light, or at least tried to. The Biden campaign has not denied that the laptop and its contents are genuine, which they would have done quickly had it been bogus. And former Hunter Biden associate Bevan Cooney has given access to 26,000 additional emails that reportedly substantiate what has been released. You would think that other reporters and news outlets would be clamoring for access to the rest of the information. Isn’t that what credible journalists do, ferret out the facts, without fear or favor?

But not anymore. Adherence to the liberal narrative has replaced the old norm of objectivity. Fear and favor are the order of the day. The only fact that matters is that the “laptop from Hell,” as President Trump called it, could be fatal to the Biden campaign. Thus, the story must be dismissed, censored, criticized and made to go away. Quickly.

One excuse for not covering the story is that it was based on hacked information. But the emails were not hacked, they were extracted from an abandoned computer that lawfully belonged to the repairman who tried many times to return it and collect on the $85 repair bill. And anyway, the media’s “hacked information” ban was only invented during the last election cycle to defend against a different round of revelations about Democrats. Real reporters should have no ethical qualms about any information that is hacked, leaked or otherwise surreptitiously obtained, so long as it is factual.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you're right that we've now entered a phase where oligopolies and oligarchs have real power, a more extreme form of crony capitalism, which the Party and its supporters are fine with. Oligopolies are content to have big gov't, ever growing gov't, since they can negotiate that system more easily than emerging companies and further consolidate their power.

Eventually the censorship even becomes an issue of nat'l security. In Biden's case, his son has been his bagman in corrupt dealings with gov't-connected companies in Ukraine and China. So Joe, for as long as he has control of his mental faculties, is compromised in working for US interests when dealing with these two countries, and possibly others. This will have real nat'l security implications should he be elected, which the high-tech oligopolies are actively working for. As we've been warned, it's the enemy within that is destroying our enviable governmental system and replacing it with a lesser one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, democrats unabashedly use spurious leaked information all the time in news reporting. Now they won't report on solid non-leaked information. Once again, they're outcome focused. Spin facts and torture the process to achieve the outcome. That's how they are judicially as well. The outcome is paramount, the process must be manipulated to get to the desired outcome.

Anonymous said...

It's quite helpful to see OK defending blatantly political censorship. It severely lessens his cred in relation to any LDS-related criticisms. He quite clearly doesn't believe in attempting to make accurate appraisals on either front. My advice — disregard anything he has to say with respect to these matters. It's merely hopelessly biased, one-sided, myopic, and even toxic advocacy.

Anonymous said...

A little more from that Farrell article:

This ideologically driven approach to reporting is sadly nothing new. In “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” George Orwell wrote that during the Spanish Civil War he saw “newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts,” and “eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened.” . . . In addition, Orwell wrote he saw “history being written not in terms of what happened but what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’” And that is how the Biden laptop story is being shaped.

What we see this very moment is brought to us by the new social activism journalism, promoted by faculty at NYU and elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Every American voter has the right to know about the Biden laptop emails and their implications. The US used to be a free republic and most of its people still don't want to be ruled by the ChiComs through a proxy — none other than Joe Biden and his family.

Anonymous said...

Check out this powerful discussion by Greenwald.

Anonymous said...

Jeff 6:27, I know you never said FB et al were violating the Constitution. I was correcting the insinuations of Anon 11:14, not you. And I've read quite a bit about Bobulinski on Twitter and elsewhere. Tell me, how many articles by John Dehlin or Jeremy Runnels have you read in The Ensign? Do you feel our democracy is ill-served by the Ensign's blatant censorship? Or do you believe that our country is better served when publishers have the freedom to decide for themselves what they will and will not publish?

-- OK

Jeff Lindsay said...

WOW, perhaps the dam just broke! After 16 days of censorship, Twitter finally released the lock on the New York Post story. And ABC dared to run a story asking some serious questions about Burisma. Shocking! I suppose the Congressional pummeling of Twitter, Facebook, and Google last week spooked the oligarchs into starting to look like fair journalists. Perhaps they figure all the votes are in anyway, or don't want to look totally corrupt in light of what they might expect on Tuesday. Either way, it's an amazing shift.

You can see part of the ABC report shared on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RepStevenSmith/status/1321985108757401601.

Anonymous said...

WOW. The federal government "pummels" a privately owned media company and "spooks" it into doing the government's bidding, and Jeff Lindsay celebrates?

Everyone, meet the new Jeff Lindsay, ardent fan of government control of the media!

-- OK

Anonymous said...

WOW. That was the fantastic ABC report on Twitter.

Holly Cow, where have you been Jeff? That is not news, that is olds. Joe B. never denied that it looked bad, any more than Donald T. denied that his children trading on his name, or Donald T. trading on his father's name Fred T. looked bad. But where is the news? Burisma and Hunter was like over a year ago. This is your censorship complaint? Now who is the old fogy?

There is the Halloween trick or treat! OK gets points on this one, calling out Jeff. Jeff, the anti-Government guy suddenly likes the big government!

Anonymous said...

It's a Trump versus Harris election. Shame on Biden's wife for letting him be used like this, with clear signs of dementia. The Party doesn't care. They just want to win at any cost, dump Joe, then install Kamala and instruct her to do as they say . . . Enter China — and that'll be the end of a democratic USA. Please pray for America.

Anonymous said...

The federal gov't needs a lot of money. Time to start fining the offending tech companies at $10b for each instance of censorship of legitimate political speech. That would get their attention, and the one-sided censorship would stop almost immediately. An alternative would be to shut them down for a period of time that severely hurt them, long enough so that billions would flock to alternatives. Though the companies could recover, their stranglehold power would be significantly diminished.

Similarly, France should deport many at-risk young Muslim males for each instance of domestic terrorism by jihadis. Then the French Muslim communities themselves would stamp out the problem.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:53, private companies have a First Amendment right to censor whatever they want, including legitimate political speech.

Why is this so hard for some people to understand?

-- OK

Anonymous said...

Badakathcare!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:26, what is wrong with you? Who makes fun of stuttering these days?

-- OK

Quantumleap42 said...

Jeff,

As to your point about Semmelweis, your version relies heavily on the trope of the lone scientist bravely fighting against an ignorant, entrenched establishment. A careful study of the history shows that this has never happened. The history of how scientific ideas have spread and gained greater acceptance is much more complex than the simple picture you use here to support your point.

Let's take the case of Semmelweis. The way you present it implies that no one took him seriously and it was only after decades of death did people finally see some sense in what Semmelweis advocated. This is a very inaccurate depiction of what happened.

First, doctors all over Europe did take note of what he was doing and his results. His theory was discussed for many years before he finally published. He did not publish his results until more than 10 years after he concluded his research. By the time he did publish, Louis Pasteur was already doing his famous experiments that would eventually prove germ theory. So there wasn't this gap of decades where doctors ignored Semmelweis's work. Furthermore Semmelweis was contemporary with John Snow who uncovered the source of cholera. Semmelweis worked in a milieu of other doctors and scientists when they were just barely figuring out how diseases worked.

Second, Semmelweis's theory did not provide a testable mechanism. He maintained that disease came from doctors touching dead bodies and then working with patients, but he couldn't explain how the disease transferred. Again, his theory lacked germ theory. He thought the fevers were transmitted by particles of decaying matter from the corpses, not from living germs. The only thing he could show was the importance of handwashing, but he couldn't show why it was important. In short, Semmelweis was wrong. If he were alive today and explained his theory he would be put in the same group as homeopaths, crystal healers, and witch doctors. His only significant contribution was that doctors should wash their hands.

Third, after he left Vienna doctors at the hospital continued to wash their hands and maintained lower maternal mortality rates than hospitals in other countries. So even though Semmelweis's superior disagreed with him on the cause of the illness, they did accept the need for cleaner procedures. Also Semmelweis was a Hungarian, who supported Hungarian independence, while living in the capitol city of Austria. At the time that Semmelweis was finishing up his research there was a revolution happening in the empire and that impacted the political optics of whether or not Semmelweis should be hired on a permanent basis. Most doctors at the hospital supported Semmelweis, but instead they hired Carl Braun, an Austrian, to take Semmelweis's place. Carl Braun was largely responsible for continuing the sanitary practices started by Semmelweis. Carl Braun went on to write the standard textbook on maternity care and included Semmelweis's theories. So Semmelweis and his ideas were not ignored.

Fourth, Semmelweis was a very caustic individual. He got into a number of personal fights with other doctors and lived with a persecution complex. He regularly insulted and demeaned anyone who asked for verification of his theories, which is part of the standard scientific process. Essentially Semmelweis did not want independent review of his work, which goes against the fundamental structure of the scientific method. By the time he died he had managed to insult and offend everyone in the medical field throughout Europe. He was a first class jerk. So if there is a failure of people to consider his work, he has to share a large part of the blame.

So it wasn't as simple as you make it out to be. His theory was wrong, even if he was correct about hand washing.

John Robertson said...

Hi Quantumleap42,
I've never been a fan of ad homonyms: "[Semmelweis] was a first class jerk," is an example of this fallacy. By this logic you might call the ever-combatant Newton a first class jerk. "Newton never seemed to understand the notion of science as a cooperative venture, and his ambition and fierce defense of his own discoveries continued to lead him from one conflict to another with other scientists. By most accounts, Newton's tenure at the society was tyrannical and autocratic; he was able to control the lives and careers of younger scientists with absolute power." (https://www.biography.com/scientist/isaac-newton). He was extremely jealous, and could not stand to be criticized.==== It is probably a mistake to assume that scientific progress was not made until germ theory was better understood. Washing one's hands before delivering a baby after handling a corpse was a wonderful first approximation. There's so much we don't know about Covid 19, for example, but treatment is improving, even if we don't know how best to treat it.== If being a jerk disqualifies one from being a scientist, I think the past would have to have been littered with a lot of disqualified scientists. Thank goodness some were promulgating the truth despite their personal flaws. == I mostly agree with you when you said "His theory was wrong, even if he was correct about hand washing," with the proviso that washing one's hands was then as now an indispensable and even truthful practice in medicine.

Anonymous said...

John Robertson, I just want to point out that, if I understand Quantumleap42 correctly, he did not make an ad hominem argument. He didn't argue that Semmelweis was wrong because Semmelweis was a jerk. Rather he argued, contra Jeff's claim that Semmelweis' ideas were rejected because of the scientific establishment's aversion to new ideas, that those ideas were rejected (in part) because Semmelweis was a jerk -- because of his personality, not the novelty of his ideas.

Key here is that Quantumleap42 was not arguing with Semmelweis but with Jeff. Had QL42 argued that Jeff is wrong because Jeff is a jerk, it would be ad hominem. But QL42 didn't do that. He argued that Jeff is wrong because Semmelweis was a jerk (and Semmelweis' critics, many of them no doubt engaging in ad hominems of their own, cited his jerkitude in dismissing his ideas).

-- OK

Anonymous said...

I think what OK has been trying to explain is that the idea of censorship is related to government power, not publishing power. The government has no power or authority to limit speech (in theory—we know this isn’t completely true in practice). A business, on the other hand, has every right to publish what it does or doesn’t want. Government interference in what the business can or cannot publish is censorship. Ergo, Facebook can present or deny whatever it wants. Because of censorship laws, the government has no power to tell Facebook what they can or cannot publish.

We should all be glad social media outlets are blocking content—it means we still have our constitutional rights.

If your informational needs are not being met by one source, move to another. That’s what freedom is all about. Remember that social media has not always existed. They carved out their own market share by providing information people want to consume in a way they want to consume it. If you don’t agree with what they do or don’t say, don’t consume their information. If, like Jeff, you’re seeking to publish information and your platform decides that information doesn’t align with its values and chooses not to publish it, you are free to seek out another one (seems like blogspot.com would work) or create your own. Publishers have been “censoring” information since ideas have been published.

Anonymous said...

You will not see articles from disaffected Mormons in the Ensign because the Ensign advertises itself to be a pro-LDS publication. Jeff advertises his blog to be a pro-LDS blog so he will sensor comments that take the discussion too far against the Church.

The popular social media platforms pretend to be public forums where people can talk about what they want but in reality they censor. The popular social media platforms do not advertise themselves to be liberal conduits censoring what they feel is inappropriate but yet they do. Do you see the difference? The Ensign is a pro-LDS publication. The Ensign advertises as such. Facebook, Twitter, et al do not advertise their agenda pretending to be a public forum. Yes, these social media companies are not government controlled so they are free to do what they want. Just how it should have been for the bakeries to be able to bake cakes for whomever they want.

Freedom of speech is for the individual and the press.

Steve

Anonymous said...

PS - And it is exactly these reasons why I don't care for social media more and more is because of the censorship and misinformation that is spread. And the same goes for the major news outlets. As time goes on, I care less and less about someone delivering news to me simply because of the bias in the delivery.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Yes, Steve, I'm well aware of the distinction you pointed out. And you and I are both aware that from a constitutional perspective that distinction is irrelevant. (FOX News falsely presents itself as "fair and balanced," but that misrepresentation has no effect on its First Amendment right to broadcast or not broadcast whatever it likes.)

I'm not saying, and never have said, anything at all about people's personal disapproval of social media censorship. I've merely tried to correct those who, like Anon 7:53 above, seem to think that government sanctions would be constitutionally permissible.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

The title is "The Dangers of Censorship: Static Science, Diminished Liberty, and a Population in the Dark", but then the commenters seek to split hairs on government v. private platform censorship. Now Steve clears is up, the hair split is on sincere and insincere private platforms. So the dangers of censorship is determined by the sincerity of the platform? So Jeff and the Ensign represent good forms of censorship because they are sincere in their censorship, but Twitter is insincere. Oh, ok. Anyone what to try and pile it higher and deeper?

Quantumleap42 said...

John,

The idea that Semmelweis's research was rejected because on a personal level many associates considered him a jerk is the exact opposite of my point. My point was that he was a caustic individual, which is why no one in the medical establishment in the Austro-Hungarian empire chose to memorialize him after he died. But that does not mean they discounted and ignored his research. Any lack of recognition of him after his death was not due to an irrational rejection of his theories. My point in mentioning that he was disliked because of individual flaws was to explain that the reason why his colleagues and superiors did not get along with was based solely on their opinion of his theories, which is what Jeff implied.

When you said, "It is probably a mistake to assume that scientific progress was not made until germ theory was better understood."

This again is the exact opposite of my point. The simple summary given by Jeff, and many others, implies that Semmelweis had a unique insight that everyone else just missed because of dogmatic adherence to Aristotelian science and because everyone missed it they had to suffer for decades more until someone else had the same brilliant idea.

But in my explanation I was making the point that Semmelweis was working inside of a larger discussion about medical practices that was building up to a more modern view of diseases. The reason why his research didn't make the leap into germ theory is because his theories did not include germ theory. The basic mechanism he proposed was incompatible with germ theory. His ideas about washing hands with a lye solution were correct but not for the reasons he thought. This is why scientific work and advancement is hard because nothing is obvious until after we know it. But there was a lot of work being done by many people who helped build up to the point that germ theory would become accepted.

Jared* said...

To the extent that Jeff's complaint is about social media policies, fine. But the story is a poor foundation for charges of scientific censorship or 'static science':

"The article summarized the latest peer-reviewed findings and argued that the media's reliance on only the negative studies, even one that was fraudulent and had to be withdrawn, was putting the nation at risk and reflected harmful and inappropriate bias."

Peer-reviewed findings are published in scientific journals. So we can infer that the findings were published and are available for reading. Scientists and clinicians don't generally rely on popular media for information relevant to their area of expertise. Rather, they rely on scientific literature, recommendations from established professional societies, etc. I don't deny that social media plays an increased role in how scientists communicate with each other, but that communication still relies on the existence of scientific literature, and there are other ways to become aware of it aside from social media. So I find the notion that 'media bias' (or blocking of Jeff's post) is adversely affecting clinical decisions, or stopping science, to be a little far-fetched.

But we can take this another layer deep. Peer review of scientific papers involves judgement by other experts as to the merits, impact, and soundness of the submitted findings. Those that are deemed not to measure up are not accepted for publication. Although not perfect, this system provides a measure of quality control. Thus, ironically, science progresses via censorship of a sort. In fact, I'll bet that even Einstein had some publications rejected from time to time. That's how it's supposed to work.

Anonymous said...

In effect social media corporations have lied to their end users. They've led them to believe that they provided a service that allowed them to share information subject to various restrictions that were politically neutral. This induced them to join and use the service.

For this election at least, however, the corporations have acted like Democrat super pacs. Thus they falsely induced users onto their platforms and involved them, against their will, in benefiting Dems. Kind of like NPR. All taxpayers fund it, and it functions like a Dem super pac.

Though in the future users can cause the platforms to change by canceling accounts, for now the damage has been done, and for some the harm is irreparable.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:47, did it ever occur to you that anti-disinformation policies disproportionately affect your side because your side spreads so much more disinformation?

-- OK

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:47, did it ever occur to you that anti-disinformation policies disproportionately affect your side because your side spreads so much more disinformation?

Amen!

Anonymous said...

Disinformation. Stammering? Joe today, introducing a granddaughter: "This is my son, Beau Biden, who a lot of you helped elect to the Senate."

Anonymous said...

OK said "did it ever occur to you that anti-disinformation policies disproportionately affect your side because your side spreads so much more disinformation?"

OK, did it ever occur to you that weather forecasting is greatly improved, but weird, the media, social media, and pollsters keep getting elections completely and utterly wrong. Disinformation?

Trump won. The map is a repeat of 2016, meaning no one has changed their mind in four years. Polls are completely bogus, media is fake. A repeatable scientific experiment.

Let OK's cognitive dissonance set in.

Anonymous said...

Actually, right now it's looking like we're going to have a dementia president with a soft marxism imposed on the nation. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

It's looking ... but it wasn't suppose to be this close, was it? Soros funded BLM worked, it got the Detroit vote out and turned the contest to Biden.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Quantumleap, thanks for the useful response. Yes, you are right, Semmelweis's fiery reaction to the opposition he perceived certainly fell into the "jerk" category. He could have been much more effective. But his bad behavior, as I understand it, came after facing extensive opposition from the establishment, with a knee-jerk resistance to new ideas clashing with old paradigms that has been called the "Semmelweis reflex."

It's a bit much to fault him in 1847 for not making another major breakthrough of discovering and proving germ theory all on his own, decades before germ theory would finally prevail after Louis Pasteur and others would make the many discoveries required. Yes, Semmelweis could not accurately explain the science behind washing hands and decreased mortality, but he had hard empirical data for the life-saving success of a simple step. Likewise, in 1614, almost two centuries before the British Navy and medical establishment would finally recognize that diet can prevent scurvy, Wiki's article on scurvy reports that "John Woodall, Surgeon General of the East India Company, published The Surgion's Mate as a handbook for apprentice surgeons aboard the company's ships. He repeated the experience of mariners that the cure for scurvy was fresh food or, if not available, oranges, lemons, limes, and tamarinds. He was, however, unable to explain the reason why, and his assertion had no impact on the opinions of the influential physicians who ran the medical establishment that scurvy was a digestive complaint." Maybe Woodall was a jerk, too, but we should expect more of the medical establishment. If a treatment appears to prevent a disease, it should be considered even if will take decades before the mechanism is understood.

I can imagine Semmelweis's frustration to see hundreds of women dying unnecessarily because doctors would not carry out a simple, low-cost life-saving practice. Many of us might have a hard time being sweet and patient with such opposition.

Quantumleap42 said...

Jeff,

The funny thing about the Semmelweis reflex is that it is not based on the preponderance of the historical evidence. You have extensively studied the life of Joseph Smith so you have an appreciation for how a simplified explanation of a historical event can be incorrect. It is easy to misunderstand events in history because we are looking back at them with the benefit of ultimately knowing the consequences. The creation of the concept of the Semmelweis reflex was based on modern social issues. It is a projection into the past of things that we are struggling with right now.

When we talk about Semmelweis and his theory we have to realize that there were two parts to it. Washing hands with a chlorine solution (bleach), and how dead matter created the disease. For Semmelweis, hand washing, and his conflicts with other doctors over hand washing, were a secondary concern. He was primarily concerned with how other doctors viewed his theory on disease transmitted by dead matter.

To put it into perspective about 10% of responses to his ideas were over hand washing, and 90% were over the infection of patients from coming into contact with dead matter. From our modern perspective we view the issue of hand washing to be much, much, much more important. But this is only because hand washing became a central concept in germ theory. Many popular explanations of Semmelweis's work fail to even mention the issue of "cadaveric particles" even though that was the central idea that caused him to become frustrated with other doctors.

The two most commonly mentioned objections to Semmelweis's work are those raised by Dr. Carl Levy from Denmark, and an explanation that "Gentlemen Doctors" couldn't accept that their hands could transmit disease (although I have never see anyplace that gives a citation for this claim). Of all the criticisms leveled against Semmelweis, he considered those of Dr. Levy to be the worst and most in need of addressing. But if you actually read what Dr. Levy wrote you will notice two interesting things.

First, doctors, and not just in Denmark but all over Europe, washed their hands. With soap. It was standard practice to wash their hands. They prided themselves on keeping a clean environment in their hospitals. Additionally in a letter from Levy to Semmelweis, he mentions that doctors at the hospital where Levy worked did wash their hands with a chlorine solution, just like Semmelweis advocated for.

Second, Levy explained that Semmelweis's ideas could not be true because the obstetricians in Copenhagen, unlike in Semmelweis's hospital in Vienna, did not perform autopsies. The doctors did not come into contact with "cadaveric particles" before attending to the women. This caused Semmelweis to modify his theory to say that the act of childbirth killed parts of the mother thus resulting in the childbed fevers.

Quantumleap42 said...

Another doctor who disagreed with Semmelweis was Sir James Simpson (the "father of anesthesiology"). When Semmelweis responded to Simpson in his book he attributed most of the criticisms to issues of translation, but reading what Simpson wrote it is clear that he had no issue with Semmelweis one way or the other. Simpson was surprised to learn that in Vienna they treated up to 32 women in the same room, and noted that in the UK they only had one patient per room. Also Simpson was not particularly impressed with reports that in Vienna they failed to change the sheets between patients. Additionally Simpson was not moved by Semmelweis's insistence that the English adopt his theories since in England they had already been using chlorine solution washes before attending patients for many years. In fact one medical textbook published in 1854 noted that in English hospitals they had already adopted the practice of chlorine washes. When Simpson responded to Semmelweis he was a bit dismissive because he didn't think much of the hygienic practices of the doctors in Vienna who had just barely discovered hand washing.

From the responses to Semmelweis that he included in his own book we can learn that no one objected to hand washing with a chlorine solution, and in many places they either adopted the practice or were already doing it. In any event everyone had been washing their hands with soap before that. In some cases the amount of hand washing in European hospitals in the 1800's was done on a more regular basis than in some modern hospitals.

So when considered in context the Semmelweis reflex is a modern invention formed from the assumption that people did not wash their hands before germ theory was invented. The mortality rate at the time was certainly bad, and it was because of unhygienic practices, but it wasn't because of some stubborn allegiance to dogma.

Quantumleap42 said...

Also Semmelweis didn't think that childbed fever was contagious.

Also he tested his theories by injecting rabbits with material from dead animals. Some rabbits died, and some lived. He couldn't explain why so he largely ignored the results since they didn't confirm his theory. He mentions this experiment in passing in his book.

It's perhaps a bit ironic that Semmelweis himself apparently experienced the Semmelweis reflex.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Quantumleap42

Jeff's whole Semmelweis anecdote seemed just a little too pat, like it was derived from a kernel of truth turned legend then turned into mythological fable by Jeff for his own purposes. The whole Mormon tradition of "plausible" historical fiction to throw ones voice onto some respected authority.

Seeing him on video is even more tiring. Thirty years ago I thought the highly intelligent and educated Evangelicals making their young earth creations videos were briefly entertaining, if not only for studying belief preservation. At the modern speed of progress, 30 years ago was ancient history. I have not seen a YEC vid in a long time. Have they thrown in the towel?

Seeing on video Jeff's exasperated efforts to turn lead in gold like a medieval alchemist, and then realize he is not play acting ... it just is not entertaining, momentarily amusing, etc, it was just sad.

Quantumleap42 said...

Anonymous,

On the contrary, just as a fuller understanding of the medical history and society at the time of Semmelweis allows us to understand that it wasn't as simple as "Gentlemen refused to wash their hands", a fuller understanding of the historical setting and events in the life of Joseph Smith show us that it wasn't a simple case of "a farm boy wrote a fictional religious book". Understanding the broader history vindicates Joseph Smith.

Even though the origin of the Semmelweis reflex was not based on a complete understanding of history, the actual Semmelweis reflex is a real thing. When people are presented with information that goes against their fundamental views of how the world works, they will most likely reject the new information rather than evaluate if their worldview is in fact compatible with reality.

This cuts ALL ways. If religious people have a simplified view of their religion then they will tend to reject new information that suggests their religion is actually more complex than they thought. If non-believers have a simplified view of religious history then they will tend to reject the information that challenges their position.

Having a fuller understanding of the historical events surrounding the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ challenges both the simple understandings of believers and skeptics alike.

From the perspective of a dispassionate external observer I can understand the personal philosophy and positions of someone like Jeff. I can tell that some of his positions and ideas, especially those related to religion, are founded on extensive study and are not ill informed. But there are other places, just like everyone else, where I realize that he has fundamental assumptions that he has never thought to challenge, such as his libertarian reflex.

Also, the version of the story that Jeff told about Semmelweis was not of his own invention, but it was part of how he personally views the history of science, which could use some revision.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what "on the contrary" part was. It sounded to me like we were saying the same thing. I suppose it depends on what we are calling "a simplified view". Neither evolution or Intelligent Design sound like "simplified" views to me. The YEC clearly founded their "positions and ideas" on well informed and exhaustive study, but nonetheless based on fundamental assumptions they are self-prohibited from challenging.

Cleary the legendary version of Semmelweis's anecdote was not Jeff's invention, his connecting the dots to make a fable applicable to him was.

Anonymous said...

OK: "private companies have a First Amendment right to censor whatever they want, including legitimate political speech."

So OK's position is that Facebook is a privately owned entity and as such is free to choose what it will publish and what it won't.

Legal reality:

"Facebook, Twitter, Parler, MeWe, and everyone who posts unmonitored comments from the public enjoy special privileges not enjoyed by others on the web. A specific federal law, Section 230, provides immunity for platforms on the web that post comments and articles submitted by the public as long as they don't pick and choose. The only exceptions are those that are prima facie illegal (for example, promoting violence), though there is also a long history of judicial support for suppressing obscenity.

"Facebook and Twitter are abusing this privilege by acting as publishers -- that is, they decide what will be published on their platform and what won't. That should negate the Section 230 protections, leaving them open to the same legal liabilities incurred by other publishers. If they allow stories to be published describing high-school graduate and recent multi-millionaire Nicholas Sandmann as a racist -- and a confrontational one at that -- they should be as liable to lawsuits as the Washington Post."

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:04, I'm not sure why you're objecting to my statement that social media platforms have a First Amendment right to censor whatever they wish. They do have that right! The liability shield afforded by Section 230 has no bearing on it. Take away Section 230, and FB, Twitter, et al will still have the same First Amendment right to censor whatever they please. Take away Section 230, and -- if they survive at all -- they will engage in more censorship, not less.

That would be fine with me, by the way. I'd love to see social media platforms make greater use of their Constitutional right to censor harmful posts, just as the Washington Post and other serious publishers strive to do. (In a more sensible world, this would be called "editing," not "censorship.")

-- OK

Anonymous said...

These corporations didn't act like censorious publishers until very recently. They abruptly shifted their publishing practices in key instances knowing there would be attendant irreparable harm. Their actions were an in-kind campaign contribution to the Party.

The Party is big on equality, except when equality doesn't increase its power, as in the case of media coverage. How about equal media coverage? Or, as the Party might have it, though in reverse, a 180 in media coverage? Indeed, it would be healthy for the nation to have the media continually attack Party leadership instead of protecting and promoting them. As a result of protection over decades, Party leaders are now thoroughly corrupt. Protection and promotion by the media should be completely shifted to non-Party pols.

There has been talk of slavery reparations. The Party firmly supported slavery and Jim Crow laws and the KKK and should be the principal payer of reparations. It is to be hoped that a noticeable shift of allegiance among blacks from the Party plantation will continue.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:02, FB and Twitter have been coming down so much harder on the right because the right has been spreading so many more lies.

As for "equal media coverage," why should we expect that? Media outlets are and should be free to cover whatever they wish, support whomever they wish, etc. They are and should be free not to cover whatever they wish.

Why is this whole "freedom of the press" thing so hard for you to understand?

Also, why do you think you know better than black people which party black people ought to support? You think you're so much smarter than they are? You're not. You're just a garden-variety hypocritical right-wing racist with a blinkered view of American history who hasn't contributed a single original thought to this discussion since you started posting here.

-- OK