The Problem Is Not that They Are Lying, But That They Have Gone Mad
Thoughts on the self-deception and motivated reasoning of the vaccinators
We need to understand not only that the vaccinators are wrong, and how they are wrong, but also why they are wrong. If we misdiagnose the source of their error, we’ll go looking for evidence against them in the wrong places, and oppose them in the wrong ways.
Consider a story I’ve been following since last week, about an epidemiologist at Berlin Charité named Harald Matthes. It’s nothing special, merely the most recent occurrence of an obnoxious media dynamic:
Last year, Matthes set up a simple online survey for vaccine side-effects. Volunteers could sign up to fill out questionnaires at regular intervals about their post-vaccination experience. About 0.8% of those surveyed reported what Matthes classified as serious adverse reactions, a number 40 times higher than the official Paul-Ehrlich-Institut rate of 0.02%. Matthes has yet to release his data, but last week he appeared in the German media to announce his preliminary results and demand outpatient clinics for victims of vaccination.
Then the fact-checkers descended. One of the most influential attacks appeared in Die Zeit, under the headline “Much claimed, nothing proven.” The article dismantles Matthes’s study piece-by-piece: He’s wrong because he defines “severe reaction” differently from the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut; he’s wrong because his survey data comes from volunteers rather than a representative sample; and, above all, he’s wrong because he failed to establish a background rate of severe events in the unvaccinated:
It’s completely normal for people to fall ill, sometimes seriously, during the observation period of a study. Every day, almost 1,000 people in Germany suffer a heart attack … It’s important to take this background noise into account, especially when looking for rare vaccine side effects.
There’s a reason I haven’t written about Matthes’s study: These are serious criticisms.
The point, though, is that when it comes to Long Covid, Die Zeit forgets all of this methodological rigour.