For many years, Dr. Natalie Grams-Nobmann provided evidence-based medical information on social media – including on homeopathy, other forms of so-called alternative medicine, and more recently the COVID pandemic. These activities deservedly earned her plenty of praise but sadly they also made her the target of intolerant, occasionally aggressive people who disagree with the evidence. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Natalie has recently deleted her Twitter account. To explain her decision, she gave an interview to Marc Zimmer, MDR AKTUELL. With Natalie’s permission, I have translated sections of it and re-publish them here:
Q: What do you think about the case of your Austrian colleague?
A: The case has affected and frightened me terribly. I followed Kellermayr’s work and everything that came afterward. It is simply a terrible example of how little protection one has as a doctor or vaccination educator on social media. It also is a terrible example of how this “hate” does not stay in the realm of social media but spills over into real life. And that we have nothing to counter this “hate”.
Q: You yourself have also drawn consequences and deleted your Twitter account. Can you explain this step?
A: After seven years of vaccination education and medical education on social media, I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. I can’t stand looking into this hell where people celebrate the death of another human being, the suicide of another human being – and see that as an admission of guilt of this really threatened and persecuted doctor and rise above it like that. I think that when even the death of a human being is no longer free of gloating and hatred, then ideology is above everything. I didn’t know how to deal with it anymore. And, of course, it also scared me. I think my death would be celebrated in the same way, and I find that terribly frightening in human terms.
Q: To what extent have you experienced threats so far?
A: … I’ve experienced an incredible amount of different forms of hate – be it threats, insults, slander, or persecution. This has also spilled over into real life for me. I have sometimes given lectures under police protection. I am very glad that it is still sensible to wear a mask in public spaces… I think that in some cases it really is a life-threatening fear that you have to endure when you speak out on social or other media about vaccination protection or about protective measures. A lot of what you hear has to be reported and followed up. It is not the case that the internet is a lawless space or that my inbox simply has to swallow every insult in the world…
Q: You mentioned the platforms. What about politics? Do you feel supported enough by it and by the authorities?
A: No, not at all and that was certainly the case with the Austrian colleague. In desperation and panic, people turn to the police, and of course, there are individual female officers who react in an excellent way. But I have also heard things like: “Well, then don’t go out in public. Why do you do that? You’re doing it voluntarily, so you have to put up with it”. Or they say that it’s freedom of expression, that everyone is allowed to say anything… If no more discourse is possible, what am I supposed to do? I would like to be able to ensure that I remain objective, that I provide information and do not insult anyone. At the moment I simply don’t see myself in a position to do that because of the many threats.
Q: What do you wish from politics?
A: I would like politicians to draw the right conclusions from this: not just those who shout the loudest must be listened to. The ones who are silenced should be heard as well.
This “silencing” that I have been following throughout the pandemic is a terrible thing. The best and most factual discussants are disappearing more and more from the platforms. I haven’t insulted or threatened or unobjectively excoriated anyone in all my time on social media. Of course, you are allowed to make a joke or use satire. But you’re not allowed to put another person down. And the very people who have always managed to remain objective – despite the well-known strains during the pandemic – are now leaving and this should alarm us all.
I do, of course, understand and respect Natalie’s decisions. Nevertheless, I am sad that she is partly withdrawing from public life. I feel that, in these difficult times, we need everyone who can contribute to more responsible information for the public. We must try to balance irrationality with rationality. Natalie is particularly gifted in doing just that (she is much more gentle and empathetic in the face of adversity than I, for instance). My hope, therefore, is that things improve, hatred recedes, and she is able to return to public life soon. Regardless of what she decides, I wish her well.