Nuanced Ideas and Simplistic Truths in the Context of COVID-19
Thoughts on Navigating the Murky Grey Zones in Life
I recently published an article on how to evaluate controversial scientific issues using the current debate regarding the existence of viruses to illustrate the concept.
From reading through the lengthy debate that followed (which received over 1000 comments…), I realized that there are two underlying issues present that apply to many other facets of society. The first is that many do not have direct experience encountering a severe case of COVID-19. The second is that we live in a very black and white culture that has difficulty grasping the shades of gray that exist within each issue.
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The Toxicity of Mass Media
As far back as middle school, I can remember despising the mass media because of how dishonest and manipulative they were. In that vein, although I recognize that Trump’s presidency is a highly polarized topic and had many positive and negative impacts on the country, I sincerely believe his breaking the collective trust in the mass media was one of the greatest accomplishments of his presidency.
The problem with the mass media is that their business model revolves around appeasing advertisers and public relations firms that need them to market a policy, idea, or product.
Each of these precludes the media companies from doing any type of real investigative reporting because the results of those investigations will inevitably upset a sponsor that the network or newspaper's existence depends upon.
The mass media is hence left with a dilemma; they require getting as many views as possible for their sponsors, but they cannot produce any real content the public would want to watch because doing so would upset their sponsors. One solution the mass media has adopted is to instead pick issues of no real consequence (such as what is going on with a celebrity, or a divisive political issue that is not threatening anyone’s profit).
The problem with this approach is that since the stories lack importance, the public has no intrinsic reason to want to learn about them. To solve this lack of interest in the meaningless content that is presented, the media has to emotionally antagonize people as much as possible over each non-story so they become a “story.” I personally find it extremely tiring to watch the mainstream news (as I have to actively filter out every little thing that is woven into the broadcast to antagonize me or pull me into their narrative). Many integrative physicians over the years have said one of the most important things for your health is to avoid the news on television entirely because of how detrimental that emotional antagonization can be.
Another approach the mainstream media will use is to take a complex issue and break it down into simplistic points that create two polarized camps. One astute author, Scott Alexander Siskind aptly summarized the situation by noting that the media will only promote stories where there is some ambiguity of who is at fault (or which side is right) because that ambiguity makes it possible for people per their biases to strongly ally on either of the two opposing sides. For example, deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers where there is a case to be made that either party was at fault always get media coverage that enrages large segments of the American population, whereas deaths where one party is clearly at fault never get coverage—because no one would argue for the guilty party so there is no conflict to be had over the story (although in fairness “bread and circuses” is a tactic at least as old as the Roman Empire). I would highly advise reading his article the next time an extremely divisive news story dominates the airwaves and popular discourse.
Nuanced Ideas and Simplistic Truths
The more that you study life, the more you will discover that very few issues are black and white, rather almost everything contains shades of gray. Unfortunately, largely because of the media, the American public has been conditioned to view everything as simplistic truths which do not permit the nuance which is necessary to navigate complex issues to a reasonable resolution almost everyone can get behind.
For example, in politics, most politicians are forced to take very generic positions on the ideological issues of their party, and if they try to present a nuanced point that deviates from it, both their supporters and political opponents from within the party will jump on the opportunity to point out their violations of the sacrosanct simplistic truth. I remember not too long ago during George W. Bush’s presidency that if a speaker in any way challenged the horrific and severely misguided wars Bush had enacted in the Middle East, in front of many audiences, they would face violent denunciations for being “anti-American.” Similarly, at the current moment, politicians are often forced by the liberal base to take extreme positions or risk being labeled as bigoted in one way or another (which can then lead to them being removed from office).
I have heard two competing theories for why nuance is always avoided. The first is that understanding complexity is often intellectually challenging, so when less intelligent individuals are confronted with a complex point that cannot be broken into simplistic truths, rather than admitting this lack of knowledge, they get angry and attack the individual putting forward the nuanced point. If you have ever seen the movie Idiocracy (a 2006 cult classic that was eerily accurate in predicting future events within America), this reaction was one of the key themes of that film. The second theory is that when a complex issue is framed as two opposing simplistic truths, it makes it possible for the mass media to continually keep Americans in a state of outrage where they fight amongst each other (thereby getting the network views) and never come together to solve the problem that would immediately unite the 99% against the predatory 1%.
Splitting into Yin and Yang
Many different societies throughout history have observed the human tendency to reduce complex issues into opposing simplistic truths. The earliest well-known example comes from Ancient China, which held the viewpoint reality was a composition of opposites (referred to as yin and yang) and that no phenomenon could be recognized or understood without simultaneously requiring its opposite to also exist (for example the concept of day cannot exist without the concept of night).
One of the major differences between the logical system of ancient China and the Aristotelian logical system of ancient Greece (the system of logic that we use) is that the Chinese system believes it is possible for opposing concepts to simultaneously exist, whereas the Greek system requires only one or the other to exist. To illustrate this distinction:
Greek: A or Not A
Chinese: A or Not A can also mean A and not A
Greek: A or B; not A, therefore B
Chinese: A or B; A and B is also possible
Philosophers in turn have argued that many of the major differences in the science and philosophies of the East and the West arise from this key distinction in logic. The typical way more educated members of our society approach the process of discerning truth is to try to contract their minds and aggressively nail down the phenomena they are evaluating into rigid parameters (“A or B”) it can be defined by and then modeled under. I do not like this approach because of the quality of mind it creates, how it frequently squeezes the complexity out of many important things around us, and in many cases that following it leads to critical oversights (particularly within science and medicine). Every model, no matter how well designed it is and how much people want to hold onto it, will inevitably encounter situations that lie beyond the scope of that model.
For example, Stanovich, one of the most respected scholars on intelligence has demonstrated that highly intelligent people often suffer from cognitive blind spots because when they evaluate arguments, rather than trying to appreciate the entire argument, they quickly scan it for things they can challenge or disprove and then frame their entire perception of the argument around dismissing the identified shortcomings instead of considering the argument in totality.
As many of you have now noticed, this is what skeptics and debunkers (who typically think very highly of their intellect) will always do when they debate your points, and at least for me, for the first few years I had to deal with this, it was infuriating. Likewise, this is why it is often so important when attempting to red-pill someone to create the mental space that provides the opportunity for their contracted mind to expand (such as by asking a question rather than challenging them with a fact) so that they can eventually become aware of the complexity in front of them.
In China, it was believed that breaking down any concept into an opposing Yin and Yang was a sensible and typical way of understanding that phenomenon, but if you had a broader perspective, it was often possible to see how each half was always true to some extent even if one clearly was more true than the other. For example, although it is often tempting to label public figures as being “good” or “evil”; when you have a complete and unbiased view of the person, it is almost always correct to say they are a mix of good and evil and in many cases primarily act good or evil due to the circumstances they are facing rather than their own internal disposition. In general, it was believed that the more a society gravitated towards seeing things in the extremes of Yin and Yang, the less healthy it was and the more likely violent instability was to enter the highly polarized society.
One extremely well-known personality disorder is “borderline personality disorder.” Although the proclivity toward emotional hypersensitivity and emotional volatility is emphasized in identifying these individuals, I have found the most pertinent trait of the disorder is their tendency towards “splitting.“ Splitting describes a mode of all or nothing thinking that always sees things in black-and-white and never appreciates the nuances in between (such as someone who wanted to be "nice" being forced by a situation to do something "mean," rather than the individual just being "mean" to begin with).
As a result, when you interact with someone with borderline personality disorder (which is generally believed to come from childhood trauma), you will have an experience where you can do something minor and be seen by them as the most amazing individual in the universe, and then later do something they do not like (which is often very minor) and then suddenly be seen as the most horrible person alive. Until you have experienced this directly, it is very difficult to believe human beings could act like this and it always catches people off guard when they first few times run into it (for example, many physicians get in trouble for their less than professional interactions with patients who have a borderline personality disorder).
One of the most insightful things I ever heard from a colleague about splitting is that individuals often do it because they want to be able to characterize a large portion of people as being “bad“ so that they can feel better about themselves by being superior to those “bad“ people. This is very important to keep in mind when you observe individuals demonizing and belittling large swaths of people for highly questionable reasons.
To a large extent, I believe the media has been structured to create a lighter form of borderline personality disorder within the general public by discouraging the ability to appreciate the nuances in many issues and replacing this capacity with a tendency to default to splitting when confronted by any complex issue (thus making it become an issue about one side or the other being right).
I would argue all of this arises from the continual emotional agitation the media creates to polarize the public on each issue, how frequently it gaslights the public to deny what is clearly happening in front of them, and how it jerks the populace’s minds around so that over and over they find themselves being forced to support something completely at odds with what they were told to believe in the recent past. Once you have been run through the washing machine enough times, the mind becomes a turbulent mess you partially disconnect from, which often results in humans becoming remarkably susceptible to adopting an ideology from an authority that superficially provides safety and meaning to the experiences you have been through (i.e. through creating a common enemy to unite behind). This tactic has been used throughout history, and I believe plays a large part in explaining the mass psychosis we have seen in the medical profession throughout COVID-19.
On a deeper level, as discussed in my review of The Psychology of Totalitarianism, many of the things that provided meaning to us have been systematically removed so a value system of market capitalism and craving after the newest thing (as we have been systematically conditioned to experience dopamine rushes after we obtain things expectations were created around) could be instilled on the population. Once people become disconnected from themselves and dead inside from following this way of life, they crave the experience of at least temporarily feeling alive inside. At this point many things that briefly provide the sensation of feeling alive (such as getting high from an illicit drug such as cocaine, or being “right” over an arbitrary mental idea that has been conditioned to hold meaning) take on tremendous meaning and importance. Although borderline personality disorder tends to represent the extreme degree of emotional instability and being drawn into emotional drama, my mentors have also shown me most people who get sucked into drama or highly polarized and contentious political issues tend to do so because they crave the temporary feeling of life these emotional conflicts create. It is hence extremely important to consider who or what motivated you to pursue a specific belief and if that pursuit is truly to your benefit.
The net result of all of this is that we have a society that continually takes away the nuance in each debate and replaces it with polarized issues for which no compromise will ever be found. One of my goals with this substack has been to show that most of the population will agree with something that is truthful and presented in a way that makes sense, but in almost all cases, those positions on highly polarizing topics can only be found by understanding the nuances in each issue. Unfortunately, the widespread failures of our current social model (the last seven years have made it abundantly clear to much of the population that our trusted institutions lie all the time) and the intense polarization our societal discourse creates has left much of the public in a position where they are immensely skeptical of everything. Additionally, social media thrives on generating traffic by creating the most inflammatory polarizing narrative possible, so when people try to follow the approach for which I advocate, they typically end up as neglected droplets within the tidal wave of online outrage.
When you break it down, it is very difficult to be certain of anything, even things that we treat as unquestionable truths we base everything else upon (these foundational beliefs are commonly known as axioms). I have thought this through for a long time, and there are very very few things I believe with absolute certainty.
For example, I am open to the current school of thought (which has evidence supporting it) that the universe is a holographic simulation is which we exist, meaning that our entire construct of reality is something being artificially created within an advanced computer. Modern particle physics likewise has demonstrated that solid matter does not exist, and everything emerges from fluctuating energy fields created by subatomic particles. Similarly, many ancient esoteric traditions believe that reality and physical matter are an illusion arising from a fluctuating energy field that continually gives birth to physical manifestations (for example in Buddhism this is known as the doctrine of emptiness).
I know a few eastern spiritual masters I consider to be individuals of great integrity who claim they can directly perceive “emptiness.” I also have a dear friend who is a renowned mathematician and has had multiple near-death experiences who told me that when he was clinically dead, he was able to see that most of the world we inhabit is not solid matter but rather a series of complex mathematical functions giving birth to the illusion of corporeal reality. Although I have not had experiences like these, in my own medical practice, I occasionally have had the experience where it seems as though my intention directly changed some underlying law of reality, and this change resulted in an otherwise inexplicable resolution of a disease in a patient (which leads into a fascinating discussion on the actual basis of the placebo effect and the importance of ethically utilizing while not primarily depending upon it).
Once you rigidly adopt this type of perspective toward reality that in effect argues there is no evidence anything exists, it becomes very difficult to know or believe anything. For example, how do you know the chair you were sitting on exists and should you forever live in terror of the fact it might disappear in the next second and cause you to fall on the floor? Furthermore, although solipsism holds the view the only thing you can know with certainty exists is your own mind, even this is a belief that must be called into question.
The phenomenon of false memories has been repeatedly scientifically documented (as a result this is now a major consideration within the legal system). In my own introspection, I have had the good fortune to recognize an instances where my own mind created false memories as a result of REM sleep incorrectly associating unrelated events together during the process of integrating short term memories to long term memories (which I believe was a result of being sleep deprived at the time those memories formed). From discussing this topic with psychiatrists, I also learned that a more severe version of the process I experienced is a common issue in certain types of mental illness. The thing I still find the most fascinating about my example that I still clearly recall that event happened but I know with absolute certainty it never occurred.
Most of the better spiritual traditions have approached the inherent uncertainty of everything by accepting that any foundational belief you hold will artificially frame your perception of reality (in such a way that certain important things will be excluded from the possibility of existing) but at the same time recognize that if you do not have axioms you use to navigate the world, you are equivalent to a fish out of water that flops around helplessly and cannot function at all.
To illustrate this concept, many spiritual systems have noticed that babies and young children are remarkably perceptive to subtle phenomena adults cannot notice. This is believed to occur because they have a view of reality that is not clogged with axioms that reject the possibility complex phenomena can exist. At the same time, however, babies or young children cannot function in the real world and would most likely be dead if their parents were not taking care of them. The approach the eastern spiritual systems advocate is creating a belief structure that has the flexibility to let go of axioms since they are no longer helpful, and always be open to the idea complex phenomena exist that you will grasp eventually.
Skepticism towards every aspect of reality, like faith, has always been an inherent aspect of the human experience. In truth, you need both, and whenever either one becomes excessive, problems emerge.
In many schools of Buddhism (and other traditions), they will engage in exercises where they question the existence of everything and follow this to the logical conclusion of accepting that nothing exists and everything is meaningless. Similarly, in modern times, much of the (religious) scientific movement has adopted the position of being skeptical debunkers who will question the existence of everything (except their axioms which always coincidentally seem to align with conventional commercial scientific interests).
In the case of the former, I periodically check on friends who ardently adopted the Buddhist form of nihilistic solipsism and have found quite a few of them ended up being adults who quite literally had to live in their parent’s basement. In the case of the latter, this ideology of skepticism has resulted in many of the most intelligent and educated members of society devoting their intellect to nothing beyond sabotaging the progression and evolution of science.
So, from looking at all this, it becomes clear that adopting a solipsistic approach can sound very nice or compelling in theory, but once you implement it in real life, there are often massive consequences for doing so. As a result, I normally find those who advocate for solipsism are never in a position where they must take responsibility for the consequences of that position (such as telling people to not treat COVID-19 once they become ill because it is not a real virus).
This is somewhat analogous to the fact that many integrative therapies work well for certain patients but not for many others, and as a result, holistic healers (who in most cases are not liable for the failure to treat a patient) tend to insist on using their preferred holistic or spiritual treatments for every patient. Integrative physicians on the other hand (who do have that liability) will be much less dogmatic about avoiding the conventional approaches to a condition when they are unsure if the holistic or spiritual approach will work (although conversely they also tend to be much more adamant on using orthodox treatments to shield themselves from liability). This problem applies to all fields of healing and medicine, and it is very rare to find a health care practitioner who can recognize when it is appropriate to go outside their box of therapies (which results in people often seeing countless numbers of practitioners so they can have the luck to run into a box that works for them).
In medicine, I hold many extremely unorthodox ideas in the back of my mind with each patient, and I continually question and change my medical assumptions and treatment approaches (and provided it seems productive to do so, I often share these doubts with my patients). However, at the same time, I will commit to a treatment approach despite always having a certain degree of uncertainty about what I am doing, because if I fail to act, I am the party that is ultimately responsible for the bad result of my inaction. This medical philosophy is best embodied within the field of surgery, where to quote one highly regarded medical author:
There is a saying about surgeons, meant as a reproof: "Sometimes wrong; never in doubt." But this seemed to me their strength. Each day surgeons are faced with uncertainties. Information is inadequate; the science is ambiguous; one's knowledge and abilities are never perfect. Even with the simplest operation, it cannot be taken for granted that a patient will come through better off - or even alive. Standing at the table my first time, I wondered how the surgeon knew that he would do this patient good, that all the steps would go as planned, that the bleeding would be controlled and infection would not take hold and organs would not be injured. He didn't, of course. But still he cut.
That said, I believe surgery often causes far more harm than good and in many cases should be avoided.
I grew up reading conspiracy theories, I am aware of the evidence for many of them, and I have actively sought out first-hand sources (which are often very hard to find) to verify many of the things I have read about. From this exploration I have come to sincerely believe in certain conspiracy theories I can’t really share without coming across as a nut-job, I believe many other widely believed conspiracy theories are false, there are some I think are meaningless regardless of their veracity, and there are many more I am genuinely curious about that I have accepted I will most likely never know the answer to.
From looking at the whole subject, I have come to a few general conclusions:
•The label “conspiracy theory” is deliberately misleading because it lumps very different things together. Some conspiracies are self-evident and would easily stand up in a court of law; others are highly speculative and are very difficult to have any degree of confidence in. Many conspiracy theories are just another way of expressing the fact corruption is pervasive in society. For this reason, many understandably object to the label “conspiracy theory” as it often is used to slander a legitimate story.
•It is extremely common that corporations and people in power will harm civilians for profit or power. Many products on the market (particularly chemicals) should never have been legalized, but because there is a benefit from doing so, various tricks like fake science and public relations campaigns will create the illusion that they are completely safe.
•It is very common that history is not accurately portrayed because there will always be parties that have an interest in the past being forgotten. Similarly, it is almost a given that governments will cover things up rather than admit to mistakes. The same bad things are done over and over in history, and are often systematically carried out over very long timelines, so if you can understand what really happened in the past it often prepares you to be able to predict what will happen in the future (this is how I was able to predict the course of the pandemic by the end of 2019).
•In many cases, elites in power will have no hesitation with sacrificing a certain number of their citizens to advance an agenda. They also normally don’t have issues with harming others for their gain (such as neutralizing a political opponent or exploiting someone). This is why it is so important to have iron-clad safeguards for individual liberty within any governmental system.
•There are a lot of incredible technologies which have never been allowed to come to market because they threaten established interests and there have been many deliberate distortions of scientific fields to maintain an erroneous but profitable paradigm (this is why I was willing to take the time to really look at the arguments against the existence of viruses). I am the most familiar with this in the medical field (a large part of my motivation to become a doctor was to verify if any of the suppressed cures I had read about actually worked), but I also know of examples in other areas like energy and agriculture. In turn, while some of these suppressed technologies are incredible, I have also found many are junk someone tried to promote solely for their own benefit.
•Some people are highly sensitive and have experiences with the esoteric realm. Typically, the only place they can seek information to understand their experiences is through the conspiracy theory literature. Unfortunately, while I do come across things in this area I believe are accurate, much of it is either deliberately misleading or was written by someone who misinterpreted what they came across, both of which can be equally harmful. These critical misinterpretations can also be found throughout epistemological basis of many other conspiracy theories.
•It is very common for disinformation to be found within the conspiracy literature. I believe this is partly because intelligence services feed fake information to discredit both conspiracy theories in general (thereby exploiting the human tendency to associate all “conspiracies” with these planted farcical falsehoods) and to discredit specific political opponents. Additionally, political organizations will often seed ideas into their political base through this manner (for example I saw the claims about Obama's questionable background emerge on right-wing conspiracy websites years before they became a talking point within the Republican party).
•Very few people have the time or ability to properly verify sources, so as a result just like any other field, it is extremely easy for claims that have no actual evidence supporting them to be widely viewed as claims that are well supported by evidence. In certain cases, people get very sneaky with citations. One of the best examples was uncovered by a friend within the original literature of the Ku Klux Klan, where a series of books were all published at the same time, and each cited another for some of their most controversial claims, thereby creating a circular series of citations where the originating source for the claim could never be found (please let me know if you have any other memorable examples of circular citations occurring).
•Many stories that should be covered are censored by the mainstream news and as a result, you can only find them within the conspiracy realm.
•It is extremely common that conspiracy theorists will use a paranoid form of reasoning that uses limited information to extrapolate to a much larger and sinister picture. While I agree with some of those conclusions (and I previously made a career out of extrapolating from limited information), in many cases I have found that the extrapolations they made were not correct, but typically, if you try to explain this you will be viewed as being just as bad as the current object of scorn (for example, in my comment section I have been repeatedly accused of working for companies like Pfizer). Because of this, it is extremely important to be honest with yourself about the inherent uncertainty behind any conspiracy.
•What is particularly sad about the previous point is that often the underlying motivation behind this mentality is developing a sense of comfort through knowing one understands more about the world than everyone else, but in most cases, there is no motivation to do anything beyond obtaining that knowledge (which results in that knowledge ultimately disempowering them).
In my case, I became interested in alternative literature because I had a genuine curiosity to understand what the truth of the world was, and then over time I decided that I needed to move on to doing something within the real world that would allow me to make a positive difference rather than just sitting at home and being disgruntled about everything.
Unfortunately, I find that many individuals who adopt the same belief structure that I did will avoid choosing to change something in the world and instead find their source of happiness from simply knowing they know more than the general public. This motivation is important to understand because it creates a bias towards believing any conspiracy that allows them to “know” more than the general public (and hence selects for the easiest and simplest theory that facilitates acquiring this “knowledge”).
Because of this they, as well as anyone with an ulterior motive for their beliefs such as vaccine cultists, will not objectively appraise the merits of each claim they come across and be honest in the veracity of those claims. For this reason, although I believe in many alternative schools of thought, I tend to find the degree of confidence I express in the truth of my viewpoints to be much less than those espoused by others who share my views (although in some cases I will go on record with a highly controversial and unorthodox opinion if I am relatively certain of it). This is particularly tragic because human beings instinctively trust the arguments of those who display the greatest degree of confidence (this principle is also frequently exploited by conmen).
In general, it is challenging to differentiate between "natural evil" (bad things that emerge as an almost inescapable consequence of the current situation) and "deliberate evil" (bad things that emerge as a result of bad actors deliberately planning the events in coordination). This gets particularly challenging because deliberate evil is often crafted so that it appears as natural evil. Although I greatly appreciated many of the messages behind the "Psychology of Totalitarianism," one of my key disagreements with the author was his argument that the existence of natural evil precluded the existence of intentional evil, whereas I would argue both have shaped the pandemic response. This also once again highlights the problem with creating false dichotomies through Aristotelian logic.
Reviewing the Pandemic
The purpose of this long philosophical interlude was to illustrate the context behind some of the issues I have observed from the virus debunkers (although these issues are by no means unique to that school of thought and can be observed in many other groups of debunkers).
I believe the pandemic was handled incredibly poorly (as detailed here), and for which many sensible approaches were never used (as detailed here). In general, I believe it is an exercise in futility to prevent getting COVID-19, so the focus should be entirely on reducing your susceptibility to severe infection and knowing how to effectively treat an infection. Unfortunately, very little focus has been given to addressing these questions because most of the medical establishment doubled down on the pre-existing faith in vaccination and went all in on vaccines being the magical solution to everything that is wrong with the world.
I would like to begin this section by detailing how my perspectives on SARS-CoV-2 have changed throughout the pandemic:
•Prior to COVID-19, the media would sensationalize every single respiratory virus, and in all cases, I ignored this hysteria and the proposed solutions because I thought it was all ridiculous and unwarranted.
•When COVID-19 first emerged in China, I became very worried by the reports I was seeing because what was described was completely different from any of the respiratory pathogens I was used to dealing with.
•It was immediately evident to me that rather than hyping up the virus, the media was doing the exact opposite and doing everything possible to downplay it. This led me to suspect that COVID-19 was eventually going to turn into a disaster, so I tried to warn my colleagues (most of whom did not listen) and began studying everything I could about the virus.
•My own conclusion at the end of 2019 was that unless a viable way was found to treat the virus, the disaster I foresaw was inevitable. My focus then shifted to figuring out how to treat the virus and comparing what I thought were the appropriate ways to handle the pandemic to what was being done so that I could have a means of determining how likely it was in the future that sensible approaches would be dismissed in order to facilitate a pandemic industrial complex (since if this deliberate mismanagement was occurring, it radically altered the strategy that I needed to pursue, and as events showed, pandemic profiteering became the name of the game).
•By the time COVID-19 had broken out in Italy, I was somewhat in disbelief that no one in America seemed to recognize the looming problem. Prior to this time, I had been immensely worried about my loved ones dying from COVID-19 because there was not yet a viable way to treat it, but fortunately, by the end of February, multiple good approaches had been identified so I began to feel more comfortable with treating COVID-19 and resumed living my life as normal.
•Come March, I started getting texts like this one from a friend working in NYC (this is an ER Doc I had review this article who was in the worst hit part of the city and whom I had tried to convince to buy personal protective equipment when it was still available for purchase):
•I subsequently watched with amazement as everyone did a 180 and Covid went from being a flu you needed to ignore to the second coming of the apocalypse. As soon as possible, I began volunteering to treat COVID-19 patients (many of my colleagues were too terrified to) in the hope I would become comfortable treating the disease before that lack of knowledge resulted in the death of myself or someone I cared about.
•One of the major things I still do not understand about COVID-19 (although I have many theories to explain this) is why the virus would suddenly emerge in certain areas and devastate large numbers of people, but elsewhere, it had a relatively minor impact on communities. This type of spread is highly unusual for a respiratory virus and strongly argues that something else was exacerbating the infections or spreading it.
•Once the pandemic entered the United States, I found most physicians were scared out of their wits about it because for the first time in their careers it appeared that their lives were at risk too. I knew a doctor at my hospital who died from COVID-19, and quite a few of my friends in NYC also had treasured colleagues who died from COVID-19. I believe this is a key reason why collective psychosis gripped the medical field and doctors in those areas became so amenable to following the absurd dictates of the public health authorities.
•Although COVID-19 was very bad in certain parts of the country and the patients with the disease were very different from typical pneumonia cases, at my hospital (which was in a more rural part of the Midwest) I found most of the COVID-19 patients I worked with were not all that different from the typical pneumonia patients I had seen pre-COVID-19. Likewise, I knew of many cases of COVID-19 in my community that were very minor and were indistinguishable from a minor flu.
•Prior to the vaccines entering the market, it was fairly rare for someone I knew living outside of one of the hot spots (e.g. NYC) getting a severe case of COVID-19 (although I did nonetheless have a few patients who were hospitalized for months and nearly died). Given that most of the COVID hot spots were in unhealthy cities that were also Democratic jurisdictions (although there were exceptions within areas that high geriatric populations such as Tennessee and Florida), I believe this was part of what birthed the Republican meme of not knowing anyone who had gotten COVID-19 and the whole thing being a hoax. The other part was the media (as they typically do) hysterically portraying the dangers of COVID-19 regardless of how far you fled, when in many areas it was not a significant issue (along with irresponsibly politicizing a public health issue blaming everything about it on Trump).
•Once the vaccines entered the market, I began to hear of far more cases of (vaccinated and non-vaccinated) people I knew developing severe COVID-19, with many of them living outside of the hot spots I had originally associated with COVID-19. My initial expectation had been that I would need to treat a lot of people for the first few months of the pandemic, but instead I ended up primarily having to do that from 2021 onwards. For the first part of the pandemic, there was a very perplexing picture of where COVID-19 would emerge, but once the vaccines entered the picture it appeared to become much more uniform throughout the country.
•Despite many warnings I gave to friends and colleagues, I found that most people did not take the virus seriously until it directly affected them because they thought it being dangerous was nothing more than a meme. This was problematic because in many cases, this COVID denialism caused them to miss the critical window to treat the infection when it was easy to treat, and I only found out about their situation when they were very ill (and required a huge effort to bring back from the brink of death). For example, I knew an excellent and highly regarded integrative doctor who had successfully treated COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic (and later vaccine-injured patients). As early as late 2019 I had repeatedly tried to warn him and his staff that the virus was dangerous to them, but they viewed it as not being a big deal, and made no real effort to protect themselves. The doctor eventually came very close to dying from COVID-19, and it was only after this happened that they finally became serious about the danger COVID-19 posed to them (interestingly a reader here observed a similar situation with another integrative doctor).
To conclude this section, I must emphasize I hold a nuanced position on COVID-19 that avoids either extreme of the debate. I do not believe you need to live in fear of COVID-19, rather I believe you need to understand that it can be dangerous, take it seriously when you get it, and follow a sensible approach to handle it. I masked and isolated at the very start of the pandemic despite really not wanting to (and being made fun of by my colleagues), but this was only because I wanted to feel comfortable being able to treat the virus, so I was not caught in a pickle if I developed COVID-19 before that point. Once I felt comfortable treating it, I switched to approaches I felt were sensible, such as wearing p99 air filtration masks when I was treating COVID-19 patients, having everything on hand I needed to treat the disease, and making sure I took a step back and addressed everything properly from the very start of the illness.
What is Unique About COVID?
In many cases, COVID-19 (and diseases erroneously diagnosed as COVID-19) is indistinguishable from a minor flu and the only differentiating factor between the two is a positive test. However, in some cases, the disease is very different from the typical flu. Some of the highly unique characteristics I have noticed are as follows (for reference although all of this also occurs in vaccinated patients, everything listed below I have seen in unvaccinated friends and patients):
•People with COVID-19 can seem semi-ill (typical flu picture) for a while, and then in a brief period of time suddenly crash (often around day 7 of the illness) and not long after need to be hospitalized.
•Tiny blood clots form throughout the body that collectively impair the circulation and reduce blood oxygenation (particularly within the furthest points of the body such as the fingers where blood oxygenation is measured leading to the unusual phenomenon of patients who have critical blood oxygen readings not clinically appearing to be oxygen deprived). Many other severe forms of highly unusual fluid stagnation also occur, such as an increased blood viscosity .
•Massive severe blood clots form throughout the body that require surgery to remove and remove enough blood from the circulation as to require blood transfusions following that surgery.
•The blood clots that form often do not respond to anticoagulants (which is a huge problem).
•A wide range of autoimmune diseases can appear following COVID-19 along with chronic fatigue and a general inability to function that can last for months at a time long after the infection has passed (also known as Long-Haul COVID).
•Various (often noticeable) forms of fibrosis occur throughout the body during and after the infection.
•Hospitalized COVID-19 presents with unique laboratory values such as a decrease in their white blood cell count and also have unique lung CT finding.
•COVID-19 causes a loss of smell and taste that is not typically seen in viral infections.
•Individuals who get the more severe forms of COVID-19 throughout the disease feel as though they are dying or may die. When I personally experienced COVID-19, I did not get that ill (due to how I managed it from the start), but some of what I experienced with COVID-19 was completely different from any other infection I have had in my lifetime and many commenters on here have reported a similar experience.
•Rapid antigen tests are relatively consistent in diagnosing COVID-like illness (they come up negative if someone is not ill, they come up positive if someone is ill with something resembling COVID-19).
•You often see clusters of COVID-19 emerge where you can trace the spread from person to person (although the degree of illness highly varies from person to person in this chain).
•The disease responds in a predictable way to treatment protocols.
I completely recognize that COVID-19 can seem like an abstract or imaginary illness, but once you have worked with it directly or had a severe form, it becomes very real. At this point, I do not know any physicians who have worked with COVID-19 patients who do not believe the disease is both real and dangerous and I only know one doctor who thinks COVID-19 may be caused by something besides a virus.
What is One to Make of All of This?
The fundamental challenge with how the pandemic has been handled is that those in charge have repeatedly lied. Because of this, it is natural to assume they lied about everything, or in other words to split everything into a “good” camp and a “bad” camp.
However, it is extremely important to recognize that just because some things within a field of information or a demographic of expert statements are false does not mean that everything that is presented is false. In other words, you have to be able to accept that “A or not A,” is not the only option; it can also be “A and not A.”
At this point in time, mainstream science is extremely corrupt, regularly suppresses dissenting narratives, and publishes ridiculous falsehoods that support the prevailing narrative. This leads many to suspect they cannot trust anything within science. What is less appreciated about this is that many parts of science are not subject to that same ideological pressure, and if they fail to perform or are easily disproven, they will be rejected by the scientific field (as in many cases there is a lot of money behind them so they have to be able to produce results). For example, in biotechnology, many valuable products are created from the genetic modification of organisms, and one of the approaches utilized to create these products is genetic modification performed through viruses.
The key point is that you cannot make the mistake to extrapolate that because one thing is a lie, it means everything else linked to that topic is also a lie (also known as throwing the baby out with the bathwater). For example, the PCR tests were deliberately designed to give a large number of false positives and because of this, they created the illusion of a massive epidemic. The rapid antigen tests (whose results are typically not reported to health care authorities) were designed to give a low number of false positives and hence are very useful for establishing if someone does have Covid (but as a trade-off they are less able to catch the earliest signs of infection, which is why more paranoid institutions specifically mandate PCR testing). This means that all of the arguments directed against the validity of PCR tests are inapplicable to the validity of rapid antigen tests.
Similarly, the fact that Fauci has lied through his teeth about COVID-19 does not mean every single thing he said was a lie or that the SARS-CoV-2 virus never existed (although in a court of law, juries will typically discount any further testimony from a witness once it is proven they have lied). There are varying degrees of cons you can pull on the public, but if there had not been a highly infectious disease making individuals critically ill in the first place, the rank-and-file of the scientific community (particularly those who know how to interpret viral genomes) would not have gotten behind that message. You have to remember that they try to do this every year with the flu (which does not matter for most of the population) and they have never been able to pull off a large-scale campaign that entrapped the public in influenza hysteria because there was no inherent validity behind the influenza threat to the public (the best they’ve been able to do was in 1976 where they rushed an unsafe vaccine to market that was later pulled after injuring many-including my own patients).
Using this same chain of logic, the fact that COVID can be a relatively minor and inconsequential infection does not negate the fact that it can also be a severe disease for some. My own assessment is that some cases of the flu or common cold are misdiagnosed as COVID-19, and COVID-19 widely varies in how it affects individuals. If you look at this from one perspective, that could be used to argue that the minor cases constitute the totality of COVID-19, and the severe cases either do not exist or are due to something completely unrelated to the virus. If you look at this from a more nuanced perspective, it simply means that disease is not black-and-white and there is a higher range of variability in how it affects indviduals.
Similarly, the fact that bad hospital protocols such as excessive ventilation (which was particularly harmful because critically important skilled operators who normally avoid life-threatening ventilation errors were not available to operate the glut of mass produced ventilators) and that toxic drugs like remdesivir killed many hospitalized patients, does not mean COVID-19 (especially untreated COVID-19) did not also independently kill many Americans.
In the same vein, the fact that COVID-19 was over diagnosed because of a short sighted financial incentive was provided to do so, does not mean all COVID-19 deaths were from fictitious diagnoses of COVID-19. Likewise, though many individuals with COVID-19 had other health conditions that could have explained their cause of death does not mean their death was not caused by COVID-19; it can also mean that these conditions made them more susceptible to COVID-19 and they would not have died absent the infection.
When all of these potential causes of excessive deaths from COVID-19 are considered, it is understandable why one could simplify it to a black-and-white conclusion of “all COVID-19 deaths are a hoax.” In truth, it’s a very messy picture (although a few spikes in all cause mortality from the peaks of the epidemic can be found) and the deaths attributed to COVID-19 were without question massively overestimated, but for those who had direct experience observing these patients, it is also clear some people who died from COVID-19 would still be alive if they had never been infected with COVID-19 and a decent portion of those deaths were not the result of deadly hospital care. COVID-19 is not the most deadly disease in history (bubonic plague and the 1918 influenza were significantly worse), but disproving the hysteria that was manufactured around it does not in any way prove it is simply a harmless flu.
As discussed earlier in the Solipsism section, it is also natural to begin doubting everything you knew about science or public institutions once you realize they have told so many egregious lies. The reality is that lies are a part of life (I have lost count of how many things I believed because someone I trusted told me whom I later found out had lied to me), and in many cases they aren't even malicious (lies are often motivated by laziness, failure to verify a source, fear of accountability for the truth, or the need to protect one’s ego).
However, just because people lie, does not mean they will not also tell the truth. I choose to adopt an attitude of trust but verify if the claim makes sense and the source appears honest, doubt but verify if the source has proven themselves to be dishonest (i.e. Fauci or the CDC) and only to trust without verifying if the source has repeatedly proven themselves to me (which is rare). It would be nice if you could investigate and question each assumption you run into (I do this far more than almost anyone else I know because it fits my personality), but that approach is simply not feasible and doing so will paralyze you in navigating your everyday life. That said, I have learned from experience this must be done with any compelling picture or quote you reflexively want to share that someone else posted because so many of those end up being fake.
Science I would argue is mankind’s eternal struggle to understand the immensely complex and challenging world around them and specifically the art of making the invisible facets of nature become visible. To observe that which is invisible always requires a certain degree of inference and in turn accepting that there will always be a certain degree of uncertainty that can only be improved but never definitively addressed. Likewise, it also requires recognizing science is a human institution that will always be guided by the politics and dysfunctional emotional patterns that have defined our species, and as a result, will often become stuck on the wrong road towards the truth for much much longer than it should be. There are many components I can cite of well-established scientific fields that I sincerely believe to be erroneous (including within virology), but I do not believe these refute the discipline itself; rather each just shows the existing models are imperfect and will always require improvement.
At this point in time, science is the best tool we have for comprehending the universe we inhabit, and as long as we can humbly acknowledge the inherent limitations of the method and never lose sight of our own humanity in the pursuit of scientific truth, science has proven itself to be an immensely positive force for the direction of our species.
Conspiracy theories and alternate views of reality that question everything are excellent thought experiments to entertain that can produce immensely valuable insights, but if you allow them to frame how you navigate life, that is typically to your detriment. Although I greatly value the truth and nothing but the truth, it is important to remember the value of any idea or philosophy should be measured by its utility in your life.
It is highly tempting to view many things in life in black and white, and I will admit, especially at times of weakness or stressful circumstances, I do this too. Despite being a doctor, I tend to avoid the medical system, and I can only think of one time I voluntarily saw a conventional doctor for something not a routine requirement (i.e. a physical examination). However, I also recognize the importance of conventional medical care and can remember instances where I was strongly contemplating going to a hospital and did everything I possibly could do to avoid it.
In contrast to my own biases, I know many people who jump on seeing a doctor the second anything goes awry (and have suffered countless debilitating medical injuries as a result). On the other end of the spectrum, to share one example, I knew an incredible natural medical practitioner (who shared many lost secrets of medicine with me) who developed an easily treatable infection, and despite our pleas adamantly refused to go to the hospital (as he was convinced he would be medically murdered there), eventually became septic and only agreed to go to the hospital when his organs were shutting down and nothing could be done to save him. I have never forgotten this story because of how immensely valuable the knowledge was that he took to the grave with him and how much work I invested (without success) after his death to recover some of it.
Because the world is immensely complex, there are only two options for how to look at it. You can ignore the complexity and artificially simplify it into something easy to understand (humans and their institutions do this all the time to create the illusion of knowledge) or you can peer into it, discover that things are immensely complicated, and realize that at the end of the day it is very difficult to know anything with certainty and life always requires you to proceed forward with a bit of faith. I would argue all of that does not provide an excuse to claim ignorance on a subject; rather it creates an obligation to remain humble, always been on the lookout for holes in your belief system and be receptive to evidence that challenges your existing belief systems.
Throughout my life, I have had many things I believed with near certainty that I later discovered were wrong. I believe one of the fundamental things that has allowed my own knowledge to develop was my decision to derive enjoyment from discovering that an axiom I carried was wrong and instead become excited by learning there was a much broader or complex truth I was never before aware of.
Unfortunately, the typical human response to being confronted with evidence showing a belief is wrong is for the human ego to do everything within its power to reject that evidence and polarize the issue. The human ego always seeks to simplify the world around us into rigidly defined concepts. I would argue that life is much more fulfilling when there is ambiguity, variability and nuance in the world around you (this concept within science is a key theme of The Psychology of Totalitarianism), and that once again we should embrace complexity in all areas of life rather than shun it.
Lastly, I apologize for the lengthy philosophical detour I have taken on here. In future articles, I will return to a more direct focus on the Forgotten Side of Medicine (although there are also unfinished drafts on medical epistemology and economic feudalism). While I do not agree with the virus debunkers, their fervor in promoting their ideology has provided a valuable opportunity to examine many of the areas our culture has always struggled with and thus a more tangible way to comprehend how to grow beyond those tendencies (since I have limited time to write, I tend to focus on current topics if they relate to a universal point that was already on my bucket list to explore).
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