MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

A study from the US found that belief in conspiracy theories is rife in health care. The investigators presented people with 6 different conspiracy theories, and the one that was most widely believed was the following:

THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION IS DELIBERATELY PREVENTING THE PUBLIC FROM GETTING NATURAL CURES FOR CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES BECAUSE OF PRESSURE FROM DRUG COMPANIES.

A total of 37% agreed with this statement, 31% had no opinion on the matter, and just 32% disagreed. What is more, the belief in this particular conspiracy correlated positively with the usage of alternative medicine.

The current popularity of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is at least partly driven by the conviction that there is a sinister plot by the FDA or more generally speaking ‘the establishment’ that prevents people from benefitting from the wonders of SCAM.

But where do those conspiracy theories come from?

How do they evolve?

A new article investigates these questions. Here is its abstract:

Although conspiracy theories are endorsed by about half the population and occasionally turn out to be true, they are more typically false beliefs that, by definition, have a paranoid theme. Consequently, psychological research to date has focused on determining whether there are traits that account for belief in conspiracy theories (BCT) within a deficit model. Alternatively, a two-component, socio-epistemic model of BCT is proposed that seeks to account for the ubiquity of conspiracy theories, their variance along a continuum, and the inconsistency of research findings likening them to psychopathology. Within this model, epistemic mistrust is the core component underlying conspiracist ideation that manifests as the rejection of authoritative information, focuses the specificity of conspiracy theory beliefs, and can sometimes be understood as a sociocultural response to breaches of trust, inequities of power, and existing racial prejudices. Once voices of authority are negated due to mistrust, the resulting epistemic vacuum can send individuals “down the rabbit hole” looking for answers where they are vulnerable to the biased processing of information and misinformation within an increasingly “post-truth” world. The two-component, socio-epistemic model of BCT argues for mitigation strategies that address both mistrust and misinformation processing, with interventions for individuals, institutions of authority, and society as a whole.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems to apply well to the BCT in SCAM.

To mitigate BCT, the authors advocate asking:

  • Who do you trust or mistrust and why?
  • How do you decide what to believe?

Effective mitigation strategies, they state, may necessitate wholescale approaches that:

  1. confer resistance against BCT by utilizing inoculation strategies that counter misinformation where it occurs (e.g. online),
  2. teach analytic thinking within educational systems at an early age,
  3. restructure or otherwise impose restrictions on the digital architectures that distribute information in order to label or curb misinformation and promote “technocognition”.

These are no small challenges, and I am proud to say that, in the realm of SCAM, I am doing what I can to tackle them.

27 Responses to Mistrust + Misinformation —> CONSPIRACY THEORY

  • Effective mitigation strategies, they state, may necessitate wholescale approaches that:

    1. confer resistance against BCT by utilizing inoculation strategies that counter misinformation where it occurs (e.g. online),

    The trouble with that is that a lot of SCAMmers are anti-inoculation as well.

    More seriously, as far a SCAM is concerned the reason for the conspiracy theories is the discrepancy between the claims of SCAMmers, and the apparent observations of their clients, and actual good evidence. If they think they’ve got better as a result of using SCAM, but the best evidence says it doesn’t work, then the existence of a conspiracy to suppress The Truth enables them to reconcile these without having to admit that they could be mistaken.

  • “1 confer resistance against BCT by utilizing inoculation strategies that counter misinformation where it occurs (e.g. online),

    2 teach analytic thinking within educational systems at an early age,

    3 restructure or otherwise impose restrictions on the digital architectures that distribute information in order to label or curb misinformation and promote “technocognition”.

    Welcome to The Ministry of Truth! Our three main weapons are:
    1 inoculation at,
    2 early age by,
    3 imposition.

    We can fix your mistrust and rid you of conspiracy theories so that you understand the Truth, the proper Truth from the Ministry. Have a Good Day and – see you at Two Minute Hate,
    Love from
    Big Brother

    PS Love also from
    Ministry of Love

  • Use DuckDuckGo to search for “CDC Corruption” and “FDA Corruption” and you can see why these agencies are so mistrusted. Like all Fed Agencies subject to regulatory capture, they have a revolving door with the companies that they are supposed to regulate. And the biggest donor to Congress is the pharmaceutical industry so they are never called to account by the Congressional committees. Just call me a conspiracy realist.

    • Just one of many many examples:
      “Twelve years ago, Ronald Kavanagh—who at that time was a reviewer of psychiatric drugs for the FDA—turned into a whistleblower, telling the Office of the Inspector General that his superiors at the FDA were turning a blind eye to the risks of a new atypical antipsychotic, asenapine, and doing so in collusion with Schering-Plough, the company that was seeking to market the drug. Asenapine, he argued, was ineffective as a treatment for schizophrenia and for bipolar I patients with mild to moderate symptoms, and yet approval would expose those two groups of patients to its hazards, which included a heightened risk of death.’
      https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/08/fda-whistleblowers-documents-commerce-corruption-death/

    • @ Roger

      and who do you think makes the medicines used by Big Homeopathy and Big Naturopathy and Big Supplements?
      Maybe you think the tooth fairy does it?

      Boiron is a French biotech that manufactures vast quantities of the useless sugar pills and water that passes for homeopathic medicines. They makes buckets of money out of bilking the gullible.
      Supplements – 99% unnecessary and extraneous are also manufactured by Big Pharma.

      Or maybe you thing all these homeos and NDs are in it for the good of their souls? That they don’t charge customers?
      That they do it all for free?
      Not half! They make tons of money out of bilking gullible punters who buy their useless services.

      At least with real medicine there is a reasonable chance of having drugs that actually work as intended – instead of magic potions that exist only in the fevered imaginations of imaginary practitioners.

      • “That they do it all for free?”

        Don’t be silly. I’m sure they accept all major Complimentary and Alternative Currencies: kitten smiles, sunbeams, bitcoin, …

      • I would like you to introduce me to homeopathic & ND practitioners that are making tons of money, anywhere besides in your fevered imagination. Do you know personally a single one? I have yet to hear of anyone driven to bankruptcy by this care, whereas it is routine with conventional sick-care.

        Boiron is the size of a micro-dot beside any of the allopathic major pharmaceutical companies.

        The definition of “work” for allopathic drugs is in the eye of the beholder. The list of chronic diseases that allopathic medicine cures is minuscule. Suppress, yes; cure, no.

        • Boiron is the size of a micro-dot beside any of the allopathic major pharmaceutical companies.

          Boiron revenue in 2018: € 0.6Bn

          No, it’s not as much as € 37Bn (GlaxoSmithKline, The Coca Cola Company revenues) but still nothing to be sniffed at considering all they sell is sugar pills and bottled water. At least those others (somewhat) work for their money.

          I wish I could earn “only” half-a-billion euros just by selling undiluted bullshit. Damn you, ethical conscience!

          • If you had an ethical conscience you would actually investigate homeopathy instead of just reading the wikipedia article and spewing bullshit about homeopathy. Come on has-been do a homeopathic proving.

          • Please explain to everyone here what me doing a “homeopathic proving” would actually prove? Other than I can replicate one of your religious rituals?

            Just because it has “proof” in its name doesn’t actually mean that it is.

            Dear Dog, and I thought Humpty Dullman was dumb as custard.

  • THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION IS DELIBERATELY PREVENTING THE PUBLIC FROM GETTING NATURAL CURES FOR CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES BECAUSE OF PRESSURE FROM DRUG COMPANIES.

    This is, of course, hilarious to anyone with a clue because drug companies already get loads of their products from nature. All they do is identify, isolate, and then figure out how to synthesize reliably in bulk; maybe with the odd tweak here or there to improve efficacy, reduce side-effects, and/or make it easier to patent. e.g. The chemotherapy treatment Taxol was derived from the bark of the Pacific yew. Aspirin, which is used for pain relief and to manage heart conditions, is descended from leaves of the willow tree. And so on.

    If homeo-crystal-wangdongdoodles really worked as cures for cancers** Big Pharma would be first to figure out how to monetize the crap out of it, because Big Pharma Likes Money, and the profit margins on AltMed snake oils are frequently to die for [sic]. That Big Pharma leaves it on the same dung heap as Galen’s garbage really ought to tell its adherents something; but won’t because AltMed like all religions measures efficacy solely in bums on seats and pounds on plates, not in lives concretely saved.

    Hey-ho, what matters is the True Believers are made to feel Special; and the ones that died have only themselves to blame for just not believing hard enough. Because AltMed never fails its patients; it’s the patients who fail AltMed.

    • Sorry to clue you in but Big Pharma doesnt make money by curing anything, particularly cancer. They make money by treating. Thus there are so few cures of chronic disease. Lots of expensive treatments tho and they make up new diseases all the time that they can treat. Identify a few symptoms that a lot of people have and magically you have a new disease that you can market by suppressing those symptoms.

      • Sorry to clue you in but Big Pharma doesn’t make money by curing anything, particularly cancer.

        Well that’ll be news to, say, all the patients cured of childhood leukaemias by purely pharmacological means. All of which are minutely documented and closely traced.

        Unlike your claims for homeopathic “cures”, Roger – i.e. doing nothing whilst the patient gets better. Keep dreaming, mate. If homeopathy worked, the trials would have shown it, unarguably. It doesn’t.

        200+ years of being laughed at, Roger. It must smart a bit.

        Ooh – I should do a proving, shouldn’t I?

        • Pick and choose the right trials and you can prove anything as the opponents of homeopathy have proven.
          And you pick the one cancer that they have any decent results for. Good pick! Only dozens more to work on.

          250+ years of bad results for allopathic chronic care and still pushing the same failed paradigm. Must get tiresome. Im sure you meet people all the time who wont take drugs for anything. I wonder why. All the fear and loathing they generate must smart a bit.

          Why yes, Lenny, thanks for bringing it up. Do a proving. What are you afraid of btw?

      • Sorry to clue you in but Big Pharma doesnt make money by curing anything, particularly cancer.

        Well that’d be news to both my dad and my aunt, both of whom remain gratifyingly cancer-free more than a decade after treatment ended. Clearly Big Pharma must have done it wrong, although I’m sure they got paid well enough for their product regardless. Which I can’t begrude them, seeing as how it saved the lives of two people I love.

        Thus there are so few cures of chronic disease.

        Tautological assertion is tautological. Once a cure for a chronic disease is found, it is no longer a chronic disease. A hundred years ago, even simple bacterial infections were chronic diseases (see: sepsis wards). Then sulphonamides and penicillin were discovered and…oops, big pharma did it again, curing diseases it was only supposed to “treat”.

        Which is not to say big pharma doesn’t also have its fingers in a number of grifts—the huge and profitable supplements industry largely pandering to the neurotic well is a terrific example of that. But, hey, you know who else is into profitable medical grifts that don’t cure squat…

        • You dont seem to know the definition of chronic. If a cure were developed, its still a chronic disease. Look it up.

          You dad and aunt are in the lucky few. They must come from strong stock to survive the toxic assault they received. How did they pass on such weak-mindedness to you?

          • Being accused of weak-mindedness by someone who believes in the magic power of shaken water? Oh irony, thine name is..

            Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention

            So if it is curable, it does not require ongoing medical attention and is, therefore, by definition, not chronic.

            Are you ever right about anything, Roger?

            I’ll just go and do a proving, shall I?

          • I counted eight “Roger”-comments in a row. Perhaps it is time to ask the administrator to put a limit on serial-commenting. Roger isn’t that entertaining /(actually quitte boring by now) and he is packing the comment list so we cannot see important responses. Either that or increasing the number of back-comments visible in the list.

          • from now on, I will just not post those that I find offensive or not interesting

          • Charming.

            Meanwhile, cancer death rates are falling:

            https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cancer-death-rates-in-the-us

            Must be all the homeopathy in our water supply.

          • has on Saturday 31 October 2020 at 10:10 said
            “Meanwhile, cancer death rates are falling:
            https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cancer-death-rates-in-the-us

            If only that were better e.g. move the left date to 1971 and it is so little, since the War on Cancer – and does it include metastases? I doubt it because by definition survival from those named-cancers is possible but not otherwise, hence no “metastases” curve.

  • there is no vaccine for stupid!

    one of the biggest issues is that these BCT and similar issues provide big clicks for FB, Twitter etc and it is in their interests to keep them all going at full surge.
    Controversy of all kinds drives advertising revenue – so the tech giants have inherent self-interest in keeping these going.

    It comes down to free speech vs rampant mis-information. Anti-vaccine and SCAM sites drive enormous controversy and clicks. Media and individuals see “balance” as giving EBM and SBM equal footing with SCAM and pseudoscience.

    There will have to be serious education at primary level and beyond along with serious penalties for media and tech companies peddling anti-science and mis-information.
    You are entitled to your own opinion – but not your own facts.
    Trump’s opinion on Covid-19 is not the equivalent of Dr Fauci’s – expertise has value.

    Science is difficult – BCTs are not. They provide a simplistic way to explain the world.
    Big Pharma is no different from Big Homeopathy or Big Chiropractic – all are self-serving yet millions are willing to give a free pass to the latter two.
    Except – there is a more than reasonable chance of Big Pharma actually turning out drugs that have a real effect on disease and having to go through rigorous testing procedures – Homeopathy and Chiro not so much.

    There are so many inherent contradictions in current public thinking and the media.
    Natural = good: Artificial = bad.
    Arsenic and rattlesnake venom are natural – but not so good!
    Anti-biotic medicine and modern surgery is definitely artificial – but mostly good.
    The same argument applies over GMOs.
    Cauliflower and Broccoli are genetically modified cabbages – just done over long periods.
    There is no appreciable difference to doing the same with CRISPR or other technologies and making crops pesticide resistant for example.
    All the modern breeds of dogs have been “genetically modified” in a very short time from a few basic breeds as a result of selective breeding. The difference between this and some kind of technological interference is purely semantic.
    Yet hordes are terrified of GMOs – despite their long history of safety.

    Education is difficult.
    It requires patience and empathy.
    It needs to start early.
    It also needs to tech companies to be moderated differently.

    • @John Travis

      First of all, w/regard to the tech giants. It’s not about keeping a controversy going, if that was there goal, they would censer nothing….and create a whirlwind instead of controlling selected posts. The issue at hand is the protected status of the media tech giants. This is a the root of the media controversy.
      https://www.barrons.com/news/trump-signs-order-targeting-social-media-giants-legal-protections-01590698113

      John said;
      “Trump’s opinion on Covid-19 is not the equivalent of Dr Fauci’s – expertise has value.”

      When Dr. Fauci gives his opinions and recommendations about the pandemic, he is speaking from a virologist/immunologist perspective only, not business owner, politician, employee… etc. So the leader of the free world must take the information from Fauci, and temper it with the responsibility to continue the business of running the country.
      If you become ill, and your doctor recommends rest, but you need to go to work in order to keep paying the bills, your decision will likely include more than the doctors orders. Let’s not even talk about the fact that Fauci has been consistently wrong, and flip-flopped on HIS own “facts”.
      Dr. Fauci’s expertise has value, but only as a virologist.

      John said:
      “The same argument applies over GMOs.
      Cauliflower and Broccoli are genetically modified cabbages – just done over long periods.”

      Many would contend that this statement is not true. Creating hybrid seeds via cross breeding is actually done naturally in nature. Over hundreds of years, farmers and scientist have aided in the process of creating hybrid plants, but it is NOT equal to modifying DNA via modern means. That is NOT a natural process.

      John said:
      ” The difference between this and some kind of technological interference is purely semantic.
      Yet hordes are terrified of GMOs – despite their long history of safety.”

      The danger is not only from the scientifically modified plant or seed. Much of the danger arrives to the consumer due to the fact that the plant DNA was modified to withstand copious amounts of additional herbicide without killing the food plant. This is again…. not natural, and dangerous to human life. This Monsanto herbicide glyphosate NEVER comes out of the plant once it is applied.

      • “So the leader of the free world must take the information from Fauci, and temper it with the responsibility to continue the business of running the country.”

        LOL, your leader of the free world couldn’t run a bath: he’s far too busy rage-tweeting about Obummer’s latest insults. But please don’t believe the current kakistocracy makes its decisions based on anything except its next grift. We already know you’re reality-challenged, but that would be downright recursive.

    • Your ignorance of GMO is breathtaking. Do some research on glyphosate and RoundUp-ready plants. Glyphosate is essentially the amino acid glycine with an added phosphate group. When a protein is constructed, glyphosate is used preferentially over glycine, creating a mal- or non-functioning protein. Glyphosate acts as an antibiotic and it strongly chelates minerals making them unavailable. It damages the microbiome and creates leaky gut. The health effects are catastrophic, just heading the list is Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. There are already 10’s of thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto in the works for that one condition alone! The epigenetic effects of glyphosate will be with us for at least 50 years if they stop spraying it tomorrow.

      And now RoundUp failing as an herbicide because the weeds are becoming resistant also!!

      They told us that BT-corn was going to be extremely safe. After it reaches the market: Oops, it damages the gut also.

      Get educated!

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