By Jane Marke, MD
Mary Beth Pfeiffer is a journalist known to many in the Lyme disease community, having written the ground-breaking book: “Lyme, the First Epidemic of Climate Change”. Recently, she’s been writing about early treatment for Covid-19, and she has been censored on Facebook in the recent past, and now on Twitter. Why? Because she is writing about research studies on Ivermectin with a positive outcome. Some argue that Twitter and Facebook are private companies and have no obligation to allow posts from anybody who wants to post. It’s their “platform”, they’re private and they can pick and choose who and what they allow on it.
But despite being privately owned, they operate more like news utilities: they serve a huge audience and there is no comparable competition for the services they deliver. Internet media companies arguably have a larger impact on the population than print media companies. Much of the country gets their news from these outlets, rather than newspapers; and even those are largely privately owned.
Social responsibility lies somewhere in this mess of reporting to the public. They are all acting in concert: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.: they tell identical narratives of the Covid-19 pandemic, from inception through prevention and treatment.
Nobody would say that the New York Times should be reporting only the news that they feel is useful to their corporate money-making mission. They may do that, but I don’t think most of the citizenry believes that newspapers, being privately owned, have a right to print truly fake news or to censor truth. The argument that these privately owned companies have the right to pick and choose who can post and what they can post is specious, when they are the citizens’ source of news.
This behavior began with the Hearst Empire in the late nineteenth century. The Spanish-American War was the first war that was largely promoted by propaganda. It was an outgrowth of competition between the Hearst’s and the Pulitzer’s. Dishonest journalism that influenced policy began there. Roosevelt wanted to obtain Cuba; he had a political motivation for the war but there is no doubt that the war would not have occurred were it not for the propaganda of the Hearst empire. The news Americans received was fabricated, and a war resulted. Yellow journalism was born. The word filibuster was born.
One may consider YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram as something other than journalistic platforms, but they serve the same function as Hearst’s papers and now the New York Times. The readers may be different, but the function—dissemination of information—is the same. And who would deny the New York Times printed fabricated news in the runup to the Iraq War. Was that okay because they’re private?
So, yes, all these organizations are private. But there is a social contract buried somewhere that says the citizenry of a democracy must be educated with truth to make good decisions come election time. We rely on private organizations to do this.
I believe Twitter is doing something very wrong in taking sides by promoting a story about the pandemic that is untrue. How it has self-interest in denying that early treatment with cheap drugs can be game-changing is beyond me. But no major news outlet, including the well-respected New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox is telling the entire truth to Americans. This is what is being omitted: Cheap generic drugs can be lifesaving. They have a role alongside vaccines and steroids, and a key role: they kill the virus, limiting chances for mutations which escape the vaccine, and making the ecosystem for the virus less favorable.
Ivermectin is one of these cheap generic drugs, and its success in studies should be game-changing in the prevention and treatment of early Covid-19. The studies tell the truth, yet the lede is buried by all who could tell this to the world.
Why is this happening? Forget about speaking truth to power. How about speaking truth to your customers, the citizens of the world?
Which brings me back to Mary Beth Pfeiffer. On Saturday, March 27th, Pfeiffer invited a twitter storm with a post (#BeBraveWHO) to recognize early treatment and the success of Ivermectin. In France, this was reported to have resulted in 33,000 tweets to the WHO in the space of an hour.
While I do not expect the WHO to give a hoot about this, I do expect that Twitter would have noted this tweetstorm when it reported trending topics. But no, it tells the truth to France but not the US. It invents trending topics in its reportage to Americans, yet immediately kicks Pfeiffer off its platform.
The Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), comprised primarily of Critical Care Physicians, was formed in March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., to keep each other updated on the latest COVID-19 science. YouTube censors the FLCCC from reporting on countries that have added Ivermectin to its list of acceptable treatments for Covid. Facebook has also permanently outlawed the private group Ivermectin Team for Doctors (20,000 members). The story we are being told is that only very expensive new drugs and vaccines can halt the deaths from Covid. It’s not true. There’s more that can be done.
Publicly or privately, organizations talking to doctors and the public are advancing this false narrative that we have a pandemic that only vaccines and very expensive drugs can handle. The corporations patenting the new treatments and vaccines have a wealth of public investment and some have a protective offloading of liability onto the taxpayer. Do we know whom in public life, in NIH or CDC, serves to profit from these public investments? We do not. There is a quasi-corporate aspect to these organizations and yet they are free to communicate to the public without the necessity of revealing their conflicts of interest. If their mission is the public good, there is no room for conflicts that blur the reporting of scientific fact.
Those of us exposed to the Lyme disease ecosystem have intimate knowledge about how power and money influence medical decision-making at high levels and would be unsurprised to learn there are conflicts of interest at all levels of reporting and oversight.
Hydroxychloroquine was politicized as right vs left but perhaps that was just a lucky outcome for the large drug companies. Perhaps that itself was propaganda designed to create distrust of generics. If it had not been politicized, it would have been harder to take off the menu. The medical-industrial complex swung the media and encouraged the politicization of the drug’s use and potential. The name hydroxychloroquine becoming unspeakable.
While we are being fed propaganda, some individual journalists are fighting for truth in the news marketplace. Where can they go? Only to social media, to independent sites such as Medium or TrialSiteNews which do not carry the reputation of the Washington Post, New York Times or many cable news channels.
It’s very disheartening.
Boycotting Twitter is not the answer; that diffuses our power and hands it over to forces beyond our control without a fight.
I hope Pfeiffer appeals the decision to kick her off these platforms and fights for the truth of her posts. The appeal process for Twitter is limited and opaque.
If there were a legal battle here, I’d donate to a GoFundMe to fight the battle.
In a legal battle on behalf of Lyme patients, Torrey vs. IDSA and health insurers, patients are fighting the battle for truth, but the settlements are under lock and key, so nobody knows. Sunlight is needed all around.
Doctors and patients around the world need to learn about early treatments for Covid-19. They have the potential to help end the pandemic.
We must fight so these platforms are required to tell the entire story and to stop censoring medical information and opinion. Give doctors and patients the entire story, so they can make an informed decision. Ivermectin must not become an unspeakable name.
Jane Marke, MD
Board-certified Psychiatrist, private practice
Founder, Mothers Against Lyme