The Hierarchy of Knowledge

If you look at what’s published as “News”, it’s easy to get confused about who or what you should be listening to.

A few weeks ago, I remember reading an interview with Tom Hanks’ wife after she was released from the QLD hospital where she and Tom Hanks were treated for COVID19.  I can’t remember whether she was asked a direct question or whether she simply decided to volunteer her personal experience of Hydroxy Chloroquine as a possible treatment for the disease.  She didn’t enjoy it.  I can’t remember her exact complaints but she didn’t think it was helpful or nice to take.  That’s okay.  That’s her personal experience.  But the only reason she got interviewed is because she happens to be famous.  In order for that kind of information to be useful, the paper (whichever one it was) has to go out and interview hundreds of recovering COVID sufferers who received the same treatment.  Otherwise that information is as useful to the world as me telling people I don’t like brussels sprouts.  Who cares?  Nobody.  Does nobody care because I’m not famous or does nobody care because it’s irrelevant?  I don’t think the two should be mutually exclusive.

Similarly,  a friend messaged me today asking if I had heard about Elon Musk’s recent tweets joining the “open up America” campaign?  I hadn’t.  But I wrote a long response to her along similar lines to what I’ve written above.  Musk is allowed to tweet whatever he likes, just as you or I may.  Unfortunately, somebody like Musk tends to have more followers and so his tweets have more power.  One would hope that with that power would come responsibility.  In Sydney, a retirement home has suffered 12 COVID deaths because a member of staff worked 6 shifts there when he/she was already suffering symptoms.  That person probably had conflicting responsibilities.  At home there may well have been financial stress.  Maybe he/she was casual and wouldn’t get paid if he/she didn’t work.  He/she hadn’t been tested yet.  Maybe there were bills stacking up, rent to pay, kids to feed.  I understand all that.  But unfortunately that simple error of choosing to keep working in an area involving the some of the most vulnerable members of our society has cost 12 lives (so far).  Imagine having that on your conscience?  It’s unthinkable isn’t it?

I doubt that poor retirement home worker was fully aware of how many lives he/she was responsible for at that time.  Imagine if people with very defined responsibilities for lives and livelihoods learned something from that story?  We are all so much more responsible for others than we’re used to right now.

Today, P was telling me about a bunch of other problems COVID19 has been found to cause, apart from the respiratory symptoms which SARS (among others) was named for.  I found it all a bit overwhelming and I asked him to please enlighten me as to his source because none of this stuff has yet appeared in mainstream media.  He explained that the guy doing the Youtube video is a medical doctor but his source is from the thousands of papers currently being produced, peer reviewed, and published in various medical journals (such as Lancet).  Being who he is, my husband goes and checks up the actual scientific papers to make sure he’s not being mislead.   So I guess I have to accept that his source is about as valid as any we can find in this confusing time.

During our conversation, P pointed out that mainstream media generally want a definitive thing, a neat snapshot that they can summarize into a few juicy paragraphs for the average consumer.  The danger of allowing the media access to anything too soon is that if the scientists then come across contradictory evidence, they will change their minds and then the media will accuse them of not knowing what they’re talking about.

It’s very dangerous, isn’t it, this loss of face for changing one’s mind.  I would praise leaders to the skies if they could admit they were wrong.  I would think that hope was alive and well again, if ScoMo  turned around and acknowledged Climate Change as being of equal threat to our economy and to public health as any pandemic.  Of course, there are many reasons (besides loss of face) why he won’t do that (mostly to do with who supported his election campaign).  But just imagine if people in power DID change their minds based on evidence supplied by experts?  What a different world it would be.

Power does not bring wisdom.  Money does not bring wisdom.  Being a journalist does not bring knowledge or wisdom.  Knowing the sources of our information is so bloody critical and sometimes it’s really not easy to find.  Even if a scientist WROTE the paper, who paid for the research and why?  Has it been peer reviewed?

As individuals, in this messed up world, it feels like the responsibility all falls on US,  little old us, to question and dig and interrogate and damn well DEMAND the truth.  It’s crazy… hey?




2 thoughts on “The Hierarchy of Knowledge

  1. That’s the trouble with Twitter as a news source. How can you possibly make any accurate statements with such a small amount of words? You are right too. The more famous a person is the more weight their words carry on social media. I said years ago that Donald Trump ought not to be allowed near a phone. As for some of the rubbish I read on Facebook don’t even get me started.
    People get angry when scientists backtrack on their original theories but that’s what science is. Research, form a theory, try to prove it and if it is wrong then say so and move on. If only politics was like that.

    Liked by 1 person

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