BRIDGEN!!

It is a sad fact of life that gods are fickle creatures who won’t lift a finger to help unless you massage their ego. This principle applies every bit as much to metaphorical deities as it does to the literal type of mankind’s creation. Take, for example, the gods of authoritative wisdom. Yes, they will look after you and protect you from those nasty free-thinkers, but only if you offer up a sacrifice every now and then to sustain their sense of omniscience. Sometimes the sacrificial lamb will proffer itself willingly, whilst on other occasions it has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the alter. In the case of Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, a strong argument can be made for him falling into the former category, since it is difficult to see how he could have expected anything other than a swift demise after tweeting the following as an observation on vaccine safety:

As one consultant cardiologist said to me this is the biggest crime against humanity since the holocaust.

The tweet has since been deleted, but not until after Andrew had already been suspended as a Conservative party MP. A formal enquiry is now to be held and I am anticipating it to be a blood fest, guaranteed to satiate the lust of even the most enthusiastic enforcers of the collective will. It is highly unlikely that Andrew will be welcomed back into the fold once his vital organs have been strewn across the temple floor.

I won’t waste time detailing the howls of ‘burn the witch’ that have already accompanied Andrew’s public disempowerment; the Guardian, high priestess of all that is sanctimonious, has already done a splendid job for me. Suffice to say that the reference to the Holocaust did not go unnoticed amongst the Jewish community, and a lot of offence was thereby appropriated.

However, it wasn’t just his use of the ‘H’ word that put a bullseye on Andrew’s back. In fact, his tin ear to the sensitivities of a culturally traumatized race of people wasn’t really why he was singled out as a suitable sacrifice unto the gods of authoritative wisdom. For this, he had to stand accused of disseminating ‘misinformation about the vaccine that causes harm and costs lives’ – something, it has to be said, that he has been accused of doing for some time now. So what exactly was it that he disseminated this time that caused the gods to become so angry that an emergency sacrifice was called for? What had he done to cross the line? Why is hanging now too good for him? Well, I am about to tell you, and I promise you that you will be shocked. I know I certainly was.

The [mis]information that had provoked Andrew into holding forth on the subject of crime and mass casualty was contained in an article posted on a website called Zerohedge.com (sneeringly referred to as a ‘conspiracy theory website’ by the Guardian). The article (posted under the title ‘CDC Finally Releases VAERS Safety Monitoring Analyses For COVID Vaccines’) was written by a certain Professor Joshua Guetzkow, senior lecturer in criminology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The ‘Finally Releases’ is an allusion to the fact that somebody called Zachary Stieber at the Epoch Times had need to resort to a Freedom of Information request to finally get the USA’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release the results of its Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), used for the safety signal monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines.1 The reason why Professor Guetzkow would be so interested in the suppression of such information is because he and his academic colleagues had been undertaking extensive and detailed research into the censorship and suppression tactics used on behalf of the gods of authoritative COVID-19 wisdom.2 What made the situation even more worrying was just how alarming the VAERS data turned out to be.

You can read the Guetzkow article for yourself, so I will not go into detail. The gist of it is that the CDC’s own analysis clearly points to there being several areas of concern regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the USA (specifically Moderna and Pfizer). Such concerns are referred to as ‘Yellow Flags’ and they are raised when the alarm signal for a given side effect is strong (indicated by the proportional reporting ratio (PRR) being equal or greater than 2) and has statistical significance (indicated by a chi-square in excess of 4). The CDC’s analysis was broken down by age group, and every group contained an alarmingly large number of Yellow Flags, particularly with regard to cardiac conditions.

Guetzkow is an expert in criminology but not statistical analysis, and so he sought the assistance of a world-renowned statistician to help him understand the implications of the CDC results. In fact, being a criminologist, it was natural for him to approach a statistician who already had many years serving as an expert witness advising courts on the correct statistical interpretation of forensic data. So he called upon Norman Fenton, Emeritus Professor of Risk at Queen Mary London University.3 Professor Fenton puts it thus:

[F]rom a Bayesian perspective, the probability that the true rate of the AE of the COVID-19 vaccines is not higher than that of the non-COVID-19 vaccines is essentially zero…. The onus is on the regulators to come up with some other causal explanation for this difference if they wish to claim that the probability a COVID vaccine AE results in death is not significantly higher than that of other [non-COVID] vaccines.

In case you didn’t get that, I’ll paraphrase. The data says that there is an essentially zero probability that the emergency-approved COVID-19 vaccines have proven as safe in the field as the average, properly tested vaccine. That’s what the CDC’s own data is implying. And that is what a world-renowned expert on the forensic analysis of such data is inferring. Unless, of course, there is an alternative explanation as yet to be offered by the regulators.4

We live in a funny old screwed up world, do we not? The organization tasked with monitoring vaccine safety in the US, sits on field data that indicates that there may be a serious issue regarding the safety of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The data is finally dragged out into the public domain and a professor of criminology who specialises in researching information suppression and the censorship of heterodox views writes an article waving a big red warning flag. The forensic expertise of a world-renowned statistician is called upon to endorse any statistical conclusions drawn and he duly expresses his alarm. Then an MP from Leicestershire simply provides a link to all of this (in a tweet that, admittedly, uses a shock tactic that was doomed to backfire). And yet by doing so he is vilified for spreading ‘misinformation about the vaccine that causes harm and costs lives’. In what sane world would a concerned citizen, who is just doing his job by drawing attention to vital safety-related information, be automatically put to the sword by those who appease the gods of authoritative wisdom whilst purporting to speak on the behalf of the gods of keeping people safe?

I can’t answer that question, but I will finish by drawing attention to another peculiar characteristic of such a world. Predictably, the BBC (bless them) were amongst the quickest to sing Hallelujah to the gods and hurl rotten fruit at the blasphemer. As if on rapid reaction alert, their Witchfinder General on such matters, a certain Rachel Shraer5, quickly knocked together a ‘Reality Check’ purporting to objectively examine Andrew’s anti-vax views. As far as I can determine, she has no qualifications in medicine, virology, epidemiology, or immunology. She isn’t a professor of criminology and she is not a worldwide authority on forensic statistics. In fact, I suspect that she is no more acquainted with the world of mathematics and modern science than was the average 17th century witchfinder with a pointy hat. She does, however, have a BA in something or other from Bristol University, gained in 2013. And in her student days she ran a blog on which she posted articles such as ‘How not to be naked, and still stick it to the man’, and ‘Make love, not adipose tissue’. So in the eyes of the BBC that makes her more than qualified to proselytise on matters of ‘truth’ and public safety.6

But why am I scoffing? Reading from a scripture placed before you isn’t that difficult, and so I am sure she is perfectly capable of fulfilling the duties that her employer has placed upon her. She didn’t, after all, even have to look at the article referenced by Bridgen in order to complete her hit piece. No mention of PRRs or the CDC and Freedom of Information. Nothing about Bayesian data mining, and not a chi-square in sight. Lots of vague references to multiple independent studies that show that the anti-vaxxers are wrong, and yet no reference to Professor Fenton’s detailed analysis exposing anomalies in ONS data that have serious implications for statistical studies that conclude that the vaccines are safe and effective.

So that’s the world we live in. Yes it is a world of fake news, conspiracy theories and post-truth nonsense. But it is also a world in which journalists, who quite frankly haven’t got a clue, can act as self-appointed arbiters of reality and damn individuals who have done nothing more than highlight some pretty straightforward and relevant facts. And it is a world in which the words of young and unqualified journalists carry more weight than those of domain experts; experts who cannot get their stuff posted on the respected news sites because those are reserved for the singing of hymns and the paying of homage to authoritative wisdom. I wouldn’t mind, but public safety is the issue and that’s not something to be trifled with. There was a time when safety cases would be founded upon evidence but now they are founded only upon consensus and the need to retain control of the narrative. It’s not a good place to be and if I had any choice I would be walking away from it, would that I could.

Notes:

[1] VAERS is the US equivalent of the UK’s Yellow Card system run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

[2] An excellent example of the output of Professor Guetzkow’s research group can be found here. I heartily recommend that you read it. From the abstract:

“The aim of the present study is to explore the experiences and responses of highly accomplished doctors and research scientists from different countries who have been targets of suppression and/or censorship following their publications and statements in relation to COVID-19 that challenge official views. Our findings point to the central role played by media organizations, and especially by information technology companies, in attempting to stifle debate over COVID-19 policy and measures. In the effort to silence alternative voices, widespread use was made not only of censorship, but of tactics of suppression that damaged the reputations and careers of dissenting doctors and scientists, regardless of their academic or medical status and regardless of their stature prior to expressing a contrary position. In place of open and fair discussion, censorship and suppression of scientific dissent has deleterious and far-reaching implications for medicine, science, and public health.”

[3] Professor Fenton has already been a subject of discussion on Cliscep due to his involvement in a BBC documentary on climate change and his more recent work debunking the many statistical fallacies that provide the bedrock for much of the ‘anti-vaxxer’ bashing. For his troubles he has, of course, been labelled a crank and charlatan. A quick visit to his website should be enough to confirm just how ludicrous such accusations are.

[4] Also, to be clear, I should stress that a Yellow Flag is not a confirmation that a vaccine is dangerous but merely an indication that further research should be undertaken to rule out that possibility.

[5] This is Rachel’s Twitter image. Her gravitas is already apparent, wouldn’t you agree?

[6] The BBC’s trust in Rachel may seem to have been well placed, since she and a colleague were given an award for their ‘debunking’ of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.  Mind you, this was an award given to a pair of journalists by a panel of journalists headed by a crime novelist. Not everyone outside the self-congratulatory world of journalism seemed as impressed. Take Dr John Campbell, for example. And whilst I’m on the subject of ivermectin, I wonder what our goth-turned-witchfinder would make of Professor Fenton’s support for the effectiveness of ivermectin. We may never know because statistical analysis doesn’t seem to be her forte.

via Climate Scepticism

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January 15, 2023 at 03:12AM

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