Medical disinformation can be akin to murder

With all kinds of disinformation circulating on social media since the start of the pandemic, it is important that people do not believe reposting it is devoid of consequences. In fact, it is very much like killing people.

I will start by saying that I do not oppose alternative medicine or even faith-healing, provided that the patient also has access to every form of conventional and science-based medicine too. I also believe in freedom to choose to refuse a medical treatment, but I do not necessarily believe in freedom to misinform, and that is the subject here.

Delay and doubt can be fatal

Distrust in the medical authorities leads to delays, and can be fatal. Without going into specifics, I will say that this has affected my own life. In that case, there was hesitancy by certain parents at letting doctors operate on a child, due to the parents succumbing to some disinformation and paranoia about medical safety. It almost caused a child to die, and the delay might have led to permanent damage.

The opponents of medical authority are absurd because we literally have no alternative other than the medical services to turn to for help in case of illness or injury. Even these idiots will in fact limp to the same hospitals they would have condemned, if they are injured.

Even if medical science is absolutely ineffective, it is probably still your only hope. To try to threaten medical workers and researchers and accuse them of malicious intent literally is the same as inciting people to leave others to die and delay or prevent treatment that is urgently needed.

We know, on the authority of everyone, the vaccines are safe

In the case of vaccines, I cannot analyse them from a medical standpoint as I know nothing of medicine. However, I do know International Relations (IR) quite well and can confirm the vaccines are safe from my own disciplinary background.

We have almost every responsible international actor on the face of the Earth - even the Taliban - accepting that the coronavirus is dangerous and pleading for vaccines to help combat it. Donald Trump is another example, much to the dismay of some of his fringe anti-vaccine supporters who can't accept facts.

If people so diverse all agree that vaccines are necessary, and the only thing they have in common is that they were or are in positions of power and responsibility and had access to the best information, a rational person will concede that taking the vaccines is the best-informed choice. Similarly, all the world's scientific bodies devoted to studying viruses attest to the existence of the virus and the effectiveness of vaccines in combating it. The only people asserting the contrary (anti-vaxxers) are fringe individuals and groups that are tasked with giving no essential aid or counsel to anyone, and are accountable to no-one for whether their information is right or wrong. The latter point is best illustrated by the fact anti-vaxxers can't even agree with each other on what the problem is (e.g. whether the germ theory of disease is even valid, or if viruses exist), other than that they all hate the vaccines and those administering them. In contrast, the world's governments all agree about vaccines, even if they have severe disagreements on almost every other issue.

Governments could lose patience with disinformation

The more medical disinformation complicates the work of healthcare authorities, the more likely it will eventually be eliminated by government intervention (currently only very mild), possibly with consequences for all online publishing freedom. People spreading false medical advice or paranoia are therefore hindering, not improving, the work of any political opposition and dissidents.

Because harmful people exploited the ease of achieving online influence, we are likely to see a significant decrease in the ease of any and all dissidents achieving such influence in future, if the decrease has not happened already. The well may have been irreversibly poisoned by medical pseudoscience and we may be faced with the ever-declining reach of alternative media, as the state acts legitimately against it to protect public health.

Health services such as the UK's National Health Service (NHS) should not be fair game for criticism by those whose interests are solely political and not medical, especially if these medically unqualified dissidents are going to try to provide uncertified and illegal medical advice. In fact, there should be dire consequences for such interlopers who try to complicate the ability of medical workers to provide accurate information to potential patients.

It is the job of the state to safeguard the population's health, even if it means overriding the freedom of individuals the state deems to be a significant threat to the health of the population. The state has significant power over life and death, and it ought only to tolerate freedom insofar as it contributes to the health and wellbeing of the population.

Liberty misunderstood

Freedom for freedom's sake is absolutely unacceptable. If people are making use of their freedoms to harm others and cause injury and death, their freedoms should be curtailed through any means including completely pulling the plug on something like the internet and denying all press freedom. Hopefully, such a step will only be very rarely needed, but it may be necessary to save the lives of the afflicted and the children whose parents succumbed to fatal irrationality.

Rampant anti-authority sentiment of the American variety is based on misreading and misunderstanding the nature of liberty. What is advocated in this post may seem like extreme statism, and be opposed by anti-statists, but they should remember that what the proponents of unlimited liberty advocate is even more extreme punishment for medical quacks. In a stateless society, medical quacks who caused the death of a child or relative would be at risk of not just being silenced by the restrained authorities, but being killed under the slow tortures of an unrestrained angry mob.

That's right. The peddlers of medical disinformation should, rather than accusing any authority of suppressing freedom, thank those same authorities for preventing the mob from seeking justice against them for the harm they do. If you have a hand in killing someone's child because you were blabbering paranoid and ignorant thoughts about doctors in a published form online and it created hesitancy among readers, think not of your curtailed freedom and just thank the state that you don't have some parent's hands around your neck.

Liberty, which is solely an exercise of the state or the incumbent power's restraint and generosity rather than an inalienable right of man, is fatal when misunderstood to mean the right to cause rampant harm without repercussions. Liberty is good only insofar as it forms part of the life and flourishing of the public, and those who jeopardise either of those things deserve none.