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‘Conspiracy theories’ on Covid-19 come from BRAIN DAMAGE? Questionable science is being used to pathologize real dissent

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

‘Conspiracy theories’ on Covid-19 come from BRAIN DAMAGE? Questionable science is being used to pathologize real dissent
People who believe in so-called conspiracy theories about Covid-19 are actually suffering from “neuropsychological impairments,” says a neurologist, in what sounds more than a little bit like Soviet-era weaponized psychiatry.

‘Conspiracy theorists’ who refuse to wear masks and embrace lockdowns are the victims of their own scientific illiteracy, which has fundamentally damaged their brains to such an extent that they cannot understand the science of Covid-19, claims neurologist Bruce Miller from the University of California, San Francisco, in a paper published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Miller leverages his formidable credentials – he’s both director of the Memory and Aging Center and co-director of the Global Brain Health Institute at UCSF – to legitimize a baseless and frankly dangerous theory that could potentially be used to lock those same “conspiracy theorists” away in psychiatric facilities indefinitely. His questionable paper takes the pathologization of dissent even a step further than recent bogus “anti-maskers are sociopaths” studies, to a very dark, totalitarian place – ironically, the exact same endpoint feared by the conspiracy theorists he so glibly patronizes.

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Dissent = brain damage?

Miller equates “anti-mask behavior,” “anti-vaccine beliefs,” and “conspiracy theories about the origins of Covid-19” with “denial of science,” blaming the whole package on low levels of science literacy rooted in poor-quality education. While the quality of US science education is certainly dismal, Miller’s reductionist viewpoint leaves no room for the many intelligent, educated people who hold these views. His area of expertise may be in delusional disorders, but writing off informed dissent as delusion born of ignorance is, well, ignorant and delusional.

Despite being published in JAMA, one of the most prestigious journals in medical science, Miller’s article cites very little actual science: two papers on the neurobiology of delusions (actual delusions, as in schizophrenia and dementia, not “differing views the writer doesn’t like”) and one comparing Covid-19 deaths in the US with those in other countries. While he liberally sprinkles medical terms throughout, hidden between his references to Capgras syndrome (the false belief that a loved one has been replaced by an impostor) and frontotemporal dementia (in which people falsely believe they are rich) are admissions that these paradigms do not necessarily apply to beliefs about Covid-19 that counter the establishment line.

It’s not that Miller himself isn’t a scientist – indeed, it’s his prestigious credentials that make him all the more dangerous, as the same scientific illiteracy he complains about makes people much more likely to be duped by his tactical deployment of neurological jargon. However, like most specialists, his expertise in neurology doesn’t necessarily translate to a deep understanding of politics. Or respiratory diseases, for that matter - he pooh-poohed the dirt-cheap malaria drug hydroxychloroquine despite scores of studies upholding its effectiveness in treating Covid-19, apparently believing every last one of them was conducted by delusional quacks (unlike, presumably, those that say it doesn't work).

But what about the conspiracy theories?

In fact, the real science in most of the cases he cites favors the “conspiracy theorists” – or at least doesn’t rule them out. Take masks: the largest-ever randomized controlled trial of mask-wearing was finally published on Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine after being blocked by JAMA and its fellow top-tier journals New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, showing face coverings do not protect against infection with the novel coronavirus. 

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There are dozensmore, though most relate to other respiratory viruses and mask-wearing. Some have been mysteriously deleted for being “no longer relevant in our current climate” – a chillingly Orwellian explanation that has nothing to do with science and everything to do with control.

And vaccine hesitancy? Vaccine frontrunner Moderna claims its jab is 95 percent effective, but the company has not released the results of its latest clinical trials – and the last time it did, the data revealed that all participants who got two shots of the highest dose experienced side effects, many of them severe. Even with the Pfizer jab, there are reasons for caution, especially with the UK Labour Party preemptively calling for blanket censorship of all “anti-vaccine” content. The last time the UK rushed a vaccine to market in the middle of a much-hyped “pandemic,” thousands of people were permanently injured, and some died. Meanwhile, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock refuses to rule out making the jab mandatory, and several countries have floated making it a requirement for travel. Sound kosher?

As for the origins of Covid-19 itself, the official story has changed so many times (those darn Chinese and their wet markets! What, they didn’t sell bats at the Wuhan market? Well, the bat must have spent some intimate time with a pangolin, or maybe a snake… stop asking so many questions!) it’s no longer credible. Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier and US bioweapons expert Francis Boyle say it was created in a lab. The science is not settled, on this or any of the above issues, and it never will be if the establishment keeps smearing researchers who deviate from an increasingly threadbare orthodoxy as loony conspiracy theorists.

More than just public shaming

Miller’s paper goes one step beyond the usual establishment sneering, however. Tracing the origin of “conspiracy theories” to an organic brain defect reeks of the Soviet weaponization of psychiatry, a dark chapter in history that seems – if papers like this and another recent “study” out of Brazil are any indication – poised to repeat itself. During the 1960s and 1970s, the USSR weaponized psychiatry to institutionalize political dissidents, diagnosing them with mental illness – because after all, one would have to be crazy not to embrace communism! – and locking them away. The practice served to neutralize the targeted individual, marginalize others who shared his opinions, and terrify the rest of the population into keeping their doubts about the system to themselves.

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The parallels to 2020 are impossible to ignore. If Miller’s scientifically baseless theory that belief in conspiracies represents an organic brain defect is embraced by the medical establishment (and there’s no reason to suspect it won’t be), dissidents could find themselves locked up indefinitely as incurable “cases.” Those who dismiss such a possibility need only look at the comparatively recent removal of homosexuality from the DSM-IV psychiatric manual. Many of the mindsets we now take for granted have been pathologized, and many which were once seen as normal (“oppositional defiant disorder,” “attention deficit disorder”) were created only recently.

Countries are also changing their laws to make it easier to institutionalize targets. One of the changes to UK law rammed through in its emergency legislation package reduced the number of medical professionals signing off on the decision to “section” (institutionalize) an individual from two to one. And now, American doctors are licking their lips at the possibility of sidelining those troublesome conspiracy theorists once and for all. 

Are these the behaviors of governments that have nothing to hide? How long will it even be permitted to ask such a question?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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