At the HealthyDebate website, I’ve found a powerful rebuttal to a lengthy Jan. 22, 2022 Globe and Mail article about COVID-19

At an endnote at a recent post, I had originally referred to a Jan. 22, 2022 Globe and Mail article about COVID-19.

I have read a powerful rebuttal to the Globe article.

A powerful rebuttal

A Jan. 27, 2022 article at the HealthyDebate website by Concerned researchers and experts from CoVaRR-Net [1] is entitled: “Let evidence be our guide: Misinformation most insidious when it comes from health-care professionals.”

An excerpt reads:

The harm caused by such insidious distortions of science reverberate beyond the traditional anti-vaccine echo chambers. They cause harm even among many conscientious Canadians who do not typically fall prey to misinformation. The Saturday morning ritual of reading the Globe and Mail for a Vancouver family was turned on its head when the Doidge article was read. The family is vaccinated and waiting for third-dose appointments for two teenage sons. However, reading this piece fraught with misrepresented evidence opened the way for doubt and anxiety in the mind and heart of one parent. The other parent, a professor of immunology and microbiology, was able to address questions and offer reassuring, accurate information. What of the many Canadians who have experienced similar anxieties, doubts, and fears because of the misinformation sprinkled throughout this article and have little to no access to accurate sources of information?

‘Master narrative’ as framing device

I do not subscribe to The Globe and Mail. I stopped subscribing years ago in response to a columnist whose views turned my stomach, a columnist who has had, as I understand, a huge following among Globe readers.

I do read news reports from The Globe and find them useful. Having been interviewed by Globe reporters in years past, I’m impressed with the fact that reporters from the paper (I refer to cases where I’ve been interviewed) check back with interview subjects, sharing a draft, before the article goes to print. I refer specifically to medium-length articles of years ago, where a reporter is not bound to a very tight deadline.

That’s a good way to ensure that what an interviewee says is accurately represented in the article that gets published. I am now following the same procedure for interviews I am conducting for a book project.

That said, the Jan. 22, 2022 Globe opinion article and the Jan. 27, 2022 HealthyDebates rebuttal have together served as a wake-up call, an eye-opener, for me. My initial thought was that the Globe article was of interest. I began to read it closely and proceeded with an online search to see what comments the article had elicited. That is how I came across the HealthyDebates rebuttal.

With the Jan. 22, 2022 article about COVID-19, we have a writer whom a comment, at the comments section at the end of the HealthyDebates article, characterizes as ‘a bit of an influencer/entertainer.’

The Globe article is by a psychiatrist who is not knowledgeable about the subject matter that he purports to address.

The article’s message is delivered by means of a reference to what the psychiatrist characterizes as a ‘master narrative.’

Such a reference serves, in this particular case, as a delivery vehicle, a rhetorical strategy, for the widespread dissemination of misinformation about COVID-19. [2, 3, 4]

Previous posts

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A Feb. 3, 2022 CBC article is entitled: “The base rate fallacy and what Premier Scott Moe got wrong about COVID-19 spread in Sask.: Experts say Scott Moe’s claim vaccines no longer protect people against COVID-19 transmission is wrong.”

An excerpt reads:

Experts say that although the Omicron variant has lowered the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing transmission, that doesn’t mean they’re useless.

“[Vaccination] actually does reduce transmission significantly, particularly when a person has a booster,” said Angie Rasmussen, a virologist with the University of Saskatchewan.

Experts say the premier’s conclusion appears to be based on multiple misunderstandings.

4 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 1

    As noted at the article:

    CoVaRR-Net brings together some of Canada’s most eminent researchers and experts in a variety of disciplines linked to emerging variants. By connecting this country’s best variants of concern-related research labs, this network ensures a rapid and coordinated response to this complicated facet of the pandemic. Contributors to this piece include Ninan Abraham, Timothy Caulfield, Jen Gommerman, Jason Kindrachuk, Marc-André Langlois, Andrew Morris, Angela Rasmussen, Raphael Saginur and Fatima Tokhmafshan.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 2

    A feature of narratives – master narratives, and every other kind – is their entertainment value.

    A story in The Decameron (2013) by Giovanni Boccaccio comes to mind.

    It comes to mind because narratives are enjoyable in their own right, however dubious they may be when featured in articles purporting (but failing) to deal in a valid way with the science related to COVID-19.

    For the following synopsis of a story from The Decameron, I refer to the version translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn.

    A synopsis of Story 4, Day 7, reads (p. xv):

    4. Tofano locks his wife out of the house one night, and when she cannot get back in despite all her pleading with him, she pretends to throw herself down a well, but drops a large rock into it instead. Tofano comes out of the house and rushes over to the spot, at which point she slips back inside, locks him out, and screams insults at him.

    For the backstory related to The Decameron, a blurb for the above-noted 2013 translation reads:

    “Celebrated in the Renaissance as the foremost stylist of Italian prose, Boccaccio has seldom met his match in English translation…Wayne Rebhorn’s fluid and dynamic rendition hits the mark on every page.” –William J. Kennedy, Cornell University

    The year is 1348. The Black Death has begun to ravage Europe. Ten young Florentines – seven women and three men – escape the plague-infested city and retreat to the countryside around Fiesole. At their leisure in this isolated and bucolic setting, they spend ten days telling each other stories – tales of romance, tragedy, comedy, and farce – one hundred in all. The result, called by one critic “the greatest short story collection of all time” (Leonard Barkan, Princeton University) is a rich and entertaining celebration of the medley of medieval life.

    Witty, earthy, and filled with bawdy irreverence, the one hundred stories of The Decameron offer more than simple escapism; they are also a life-affirming balm for trying times. The Decameron is a joyously comic book that has earned its place in world literature not just because it makes us laugh, but more importantly because it shows us how essential laughter is to the human condition.

    Published on the 700th anniversary of Boccaccio’s birth, Wayne A. Rebhorn’s new translation of The Decameron introduces a generation of readers to this “rich late-medieval feast” in a “lively, contemporary, American-inflected English” (Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University) even as it retains the distinctly medieval flavor of Boccaccio’s rhetorically expressive prose.

    An extensive introduction provides useful details about Boccaccio’s historical and cultural milieu, the themes and particularities of the text, and the lines of influence flowing into and out of this towering monument of world literature.

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 3

    For the current pandemic, an updated version of The Decameron is entitled: The Decameron Project: 29 New Stories From the Pandemic (2020).

    A blurb reads:

    A stunning collection of short stories originally commissioned by The New York Times Magazine as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, from twenty-nine authors including Margaret Atwood, Tommy Orange, Edwidge Danticat, this year’s National Book Award winner Charles Yu, and more.

    When reality is surreal, only fiction can make sense of it.

    In 1353, Giovanni Boccaccio wrote The Decameron: one hundred nested tales told by a group of young men and women passing the time at a villa outside Florence while waiting out the gruesome Black Death, a plague that killed more than 25 million people. Some of the stories are silly, some are bawdy, some are like fables.

    In March 2020, the editors of The New York Times Magazine created The Decameron Project, an anthology with a simple, time-spanning goal: to gather a collection of stories written as our current pandemic first swept the globe. How might new fiction from some of the finest writers working today help us memorialize and understand the unimaginable? And what could be learned about how this crisis will affect the art of fiction?

    These twenty-nine new stories, from authors including Margaret Atwood, Tommy Orange, Edwidge Danticat, Charles Yu, Rachel Kusher, Colm Toibin, and David Mitchell vary widely in texture and tone. Their work will be remembered as a historical tribute to a time and place unlike any other in our lifetimes, and will offer perspective and solace to the reader now and in a future where COVID-19 is, hopefully, just a memory.

    Table of Contents:

    “Preface” by Caitlin Roper

    “Introduction” by Rivka Galchen

    “Recognition” by Victor LaValle

    “A Blue Sky Like This” by Mona Awad

    “The Walk” by Kamila Shamsie

    “Tales from the LA River” by Colm Tóibín

    “Clinical Notes” by Liz Moore

    “The Team” by Tommy Orange

    “The Rock” by Leila Slimani

    “Impatient Griselda” by Margaret Atwood

    “Under the Magnolia” by Yiyun Li

    “Outside” by Etgar Keret

    “Keepsakes” by Andrew O’Hagan

    “The Girl with the Big Red Suitcase” by Rachel Kushner

    “The Morningside” by Téa Obreht

    “Screen Time” by Alejandro Zambra

    “How We Used to Play” by Dinaw Mengestu

    “Line 19 Woodstock/Glisan” by Karen Russell

    “If Wishes Was Horses” by David Mitchell

    “Systems” by Charles Yu

    “The Perfect Travel Buddy” by Paolo Giordano

    “An Obliging Robber” by Mia Couto

    “Sleep” by Uzodinma Iweala

    “Prudent Girls” by Rivers Solomon

    “That Time at My Brother’s Wedding” by Laila Lalami

    “A Time of Death, The Death of Time” by Julián Fuks

    “The Cellar” by Dina Nayeri

    “Origin Story” by Matthew Baker

    “To the Wall” by Esi Edugyan

    “Barcelona: Open City” by John Wray

    “One Thing” by Edwidge Danticat

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 4

    Earlier in the pandemic, I read another engaging book – The Plague (originally published 1947; version translated by Stuart Gilbert 1991) by Albert Camus.

    A blurb reads:

    The Plague is Albert Camus’s world-renowned fable of fear and courage.

    The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease – some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr Rieux, resist the terror.

    An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France’s suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence.

    ‘A matchless fable of fear, courage and cowardice’ –Independent

    ‘Magnificent’ –The Times

    Albert Camus was born in Algeria in 1913. He studied philosophy in Algiers and then worked in Paris as a journalist. He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Resistance movement and, after the War, established his international reputation as a writer. His books include The Plague, The Just and The Fall, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Camus was killed in a road accident in 1960.


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