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Free Speech’s Grim Future

Free Speech’s Grim Future
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How government agencies and academic elites are planning to halt the spread of “misinformation.” Action Alert!

Last week, the 2023 Nobel Prize Summit was hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Titled “Truth, Trust, and Hope,” the summit’s main goal was to figure out how to deal with the scourge of scientific “misinformation” relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and elections. Over the course of 3 days and 18+ hours of presentations and panel discussions, we were offered a glimpse into what strategies will be used to control scientific discourse in the coming years. Make no mistake: the free flow of scientific information is in serious jeopardy from the very people who consider themselves stewards of the scientific method.

What does a three-day meeting of a bunch of PhD’s mean to you? If you relied on supplements like quercetin, zinc, and vitamin C, along with antivirals like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to stay healthy during the pandemic, for example, then you should be very concerned. If the people at the Nobel Prize Summit had their way, you wouldn’t hear about those or any other alternative treatments; all you would be able to find is information supporting COVID vaccination. As ANH founder Robert Verkerk, PhD recently put it: “The goal appears to be to reduce complex, uncertain issues to a single, over-simplistic narrative that has been selected by the planet’s biggest power brokers.” What we’re facing is an effort to establish certain “truths” that are not up for debate—and if you don’t like it, you better fall in line or risk your career and reputation.

There are fundamental contradictions at work in the war against misinformation that were very apparent during the three-day Summit. Most, if not all, of the speakers expressed a reverence and awe for the scientific method and the wondrous things it can produce to advance society. Yet those same people are working to erode the scientific method by making it more difficult to dissent from consensus views—like, for instance, that COVID vaccines are safe and everyone should get them. Many speakers referenced the threat to democracy and open society represented by the spread of misinformation, but apparently do not see any threat to democracy in the censorship of free speech or the move towards top-down, centralized decision-making over your health that is characteristic of authoritarian regimes.

There was much lip service paid to the importance of “discourse” in the scientific method, but if you watched the Summit you were left with the impression that “discourse” was reserved for the elites at the major academic institutions—it couldn’t be trusted to the crude, ignorant masses. Elites engage in “discourse” and then arrive at a consensus which should not be challenged. This is not how science works. If it was, we’d probably still believe the Earth was the center of the universe and that Copernicus was a misinformation super-spreader!

The COVID pandemic loomed large over the Summit. Indeed, the safety of COVID vaccines was one of the consensus views that all in attendance think it is illegitimate to question. Reflect for a moment on how preposterous that is. We faced a novel situation in an unprecedented global pandemic, then, in less than a year, developed a novel therapeutic that was deployed on entire populations around the world. How could the science be anywhere near “settled” on the question of safety when we don’t even have long-term data?

The view is all the more absurd because, as it turns out, those expressing concerns over COVID vaccines were justified, as we’ve previously shown. In fact, our colleagues at ANH-International put together a detailed chart demonstrating how dissenters ended up being correct on a number of points throughout the pandemic, from the utility of masks and lockdowns to COVID vaccine safety, the importance of natural immunity, and beyond.

Who, then, is undermining the scientific method: those who continue to ask questions and prod the “established” truths, or those who seek to silence dissenters and brand any challenges to the established orthodoxies as “misinformation”?

There was also a spookier side to the Summit. Taken as granted that the academic elites know what the Truth is on a given matter, how can they better persuade the confused masses of their point of view? There were discussions on the psychological profiles of those who believe in and spread misinformation and how to use these profiles to be more persuasive in communications. That’s right: the elites are considering ways in which they can better propagandize their messages, at least in part by psychological manipulation.

There is an insulting undertone to all of this. If only the benighted public would just take the gift of Truth gifted to them by the elites in the government, academia, and public health institutions! Throughout the three days, there was a distinct lack of respect for lay people. Among the presenters was a magician who spoke about how people can be easily misled with a few tricks. Next was a researcher talking about the “misinformation effect,” whereby people can be made to remember events that they never actually experienced. The subtext: you’re a sheep who can be easily misled, so you better trust us, the elites (even though we got it wrong again and again throughout the pandemic—oops!).

Instead of silencing the voices that we do not want to hear, we should encourage dialogue along with critical thinking. Surely a world where everyone is entitled to their own views, opinions, beliefs, and ideas that can be shared and discussed openly and expressed is better than a totalitarian state in which a very small group of individuals with deep vested interests decides what’s right and wrong, true or false?

The coordinated efforts to censor information that we experienced during the pandemic are not going away. If anything, this Nobel Prize Summit demonstrated that those looking to silence dissent are planning to employ more sophisticated strategies in the year to come to control the information you see.

We at ANH will continue to fight for free speech and expose those who wish to undermine it. If you’re looking to take a concrete step, take action below to support our bill to allow the free flow of information on dietary supplements, which are prevented by FDA rules from citing legitimate scientific research about their benefits.

Action Alert! Send a message to Congress supporting our bill to allow the free flow of information about supplements. Please send your message immediately.

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