Charisma in a Time of Covid

This article from WattsUpWithThat: “Remdesivir for COVID-19” Study accidentally proved effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine”

has been picked up by Lockdown Sceptics. Do read it if you haven’t already. 

It refers in passing to this article by our old friend Professor Raoult:

Y. Roussel, Y.; Raoult, D.; “Influence of conflicts of interest on public positions in the COVID-19 era, the case of Gilead Sciences, New Microbes and New Infections, 2020”.

The abstract begins:

Funding and gifts from the pharmaceutical industry have an influence on the decisions made by physicians and medical experts.

The authors identified 98 medical researchers who are members of the French Council of Teachers in Infectious and Tropical Diseases, obtained a list of their bungs and emoluments from pharmaceutical companies (in particular from Gilead) and performed a Google search to identify all interviews in the media mentioning hydroxychloroquine, which were then coded as very favourable, favourable etc.

These 98 researchers received between them an incredible 4.6 million euros in sweeteners from pharmaceutical companies, including € 678,000 from Gilead alone. Those who expressed very unfavourable comments about hydroxychloroquine in the media received an average of 24 thousand euros from Gilead, while those who were very favourable received on average a measly € 52. 

This is possibly the first peer reviewed paper in the history of science to estimate the proportion of a respected profession who are for sale, and willing to prostitute themselves, at the risk of other people’s lives, for dosh. It’s 16%, which is a relief I suppose. French transparency laws were designed to allow journalists to find out stuff like this and inform the public. But journalists can’t be bothered, apparently, so only scientists know about this – and you and me.

Scientists can be as corrupt as you like, or as saintly as you like. It matters not a jot as long as we have journalists who can’t be arsed to lift a finger and take the first step towards starting to do their job – which is to look things up.

French journalists have a reputation for servility, for which they overcompensate by trying to imitate what they assume to be the Anglo Saxon method of incisive forensic interrogation, but they just end up yapping like terriers. Such was the case this evening in an hour long interview with Professor Raoult by star journalist David Pujadas.

Raoult is a scholar and a gentleman, and affects a dignified attitude of attentive respect towards his questioner, except when he thinks he’s being taken for a fool, which in this case was about ten seconds into the interview.

Pujadas began by trying to challenge Raoult’s frequently stated position that as a scientist he doesn’t make predictions by quoting back to him things he’d said over the past few months. What emerged from this spat was the fact that the journalist with a literary background didn’t understand the meaning of the word “prediction,” and the scientist did. Raoult ribbed him at one point saying: “As a journalist, you’re interested in events day by day.” When Pujadas objected Raoult added: “but it’s in your job description.” (“journal” means “daily,” as in “journeyman.”) Pujadas didn’t seem to get it.

At several points, as Pujadas interrupted him, Raoult told him to shut up and stop prattling. Pujadas came up with a new French word, “dissensus” which I take to be the opposite of consensus. 

When Pujadas calmed down towards the end of the interview Raoult was able to make some interesting points. He insisted several times on the nervous tension in our society, clearly referring to Trump Derangement Syndrome. He claimed that France gave up on medical research during the seventies, and that everything interesting was being done in China. There was genuine emotion in his voice when he recounted how a Chinese colleague explained that they didn’t do double blind tests with placebos because they believe all patients should be treated. 

Raoult claimed that our ideology of technological progress blinds us to the fact that biological science doesn’t, and can’t, “advance” in the way we naively believe science to do, pointing out that no new vaccines had come on the market for twenty years. The million-year lifespan of a new molecule is ill-adapted to a system of twenty year patents. 

Raoult came over as the great scientific panjandrum who wasn’t going to take nonsense from a mere journalist like Pujadas, who is one of the most popular and well known personalities in France. It didn’t go down well with most viewers, judging by comments on Twitter.

Raoult is not a popular figure in France. He produces a weekly video that is watched by a half a million people, and lets himself be interviewed once a fortnight or so. Though the French media has adopted the same kind of self-censorship as the British with respect to alternative points of view, they can’t leave Raoult alone. His charisma and his position as head of the Marseille University Hospital, with its international reputation for research and its links with French speaking Africa, mean that he can’t be ignored. And his aristocratic manner, hippy-like appearance and big mouth mean that the media can’t resist taking him on.

Charisma is the operative word here. It’s a concept that was introduced into scientific discourse by the German sociologist Weber a century ago. Journalists feel his charisma and continually interrogate Raoult about his political ambitions. Journalists have spent so long licking politicians’ bottoms, to the mutual benefit of both parties, that they can’t get their heads round someone with charisma not needing to have his bottom licked. 

You can’t have a social movement without leaders with charisma. It’s not rational, but that’s how it is. When the tide turns and people look around for ways to escape from the current madness, they’re going to be looking for a leader. At that point events in France may diverge from those in the UK – we’ll see. If there was a social scientist somewhere in our society they’d be fascinated by this possibility. But there isn’t so they aren’t. 

Maybe in China.

There is one person in the English speaking world with charisma who has expressed scepticism about climate hysteria and other similar examples of the madness of crowds, and that’s Jordan Peterson. I’ll be coming back to him soon.

Like this:

Like Loading…


via Climate Scepticism

October 27, 2020 at 06:31PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s