The Matrix: Distortion of Perception Through Performative Science, Part 1
The Information Wars Part XIX: A Walkthrough of the Performative Scientists
"The more I see, the less I know for sure." -John Lennon
Find out more about the Information Wars here.
Are We Living in a Reality Matrix?
Are we living in a (reality) Matrix?
The answer may come down to the definition a Matrix, so let's start with one:
A (reality) Matrix is the controlled perception of reality of one or more individuals by a third party.
Technically, the third party need not even know they are participating in the construction of another person's reality Matrix.
To be clear, it is economically easier to control the perceptions of many people at once with the same directional steering of propaganda, so yes, this is primarily a conversation about mass media. Perhaps this could be done through futuristic technology such as brain implants and biopods?
But there are far more common and time tested methods without the need to fully restrict the abilities of people from interacting with the physical world.
I sometimes wonder if the purpose of some dystopian science fiction, such as The Matrix films, is to keep people thinking that we're not there, yet.
People get used to self-programming early in life through an educational system well designed to set the process in motion. They learn whatever Newspeak they need to get along at community hubs and cocktail parties, which serves to reinforce false perceptions learned by skilled TV watchers. Though people often detect levels of BS in the information ecosystem, the most intellectually capable are kept in stalls in their corners of the specialist maze, repeating what they've learned about domains outside of their own which they read about in The Atlantic.
The result is that the specialists are either hypnotized into a narcissistic state that is the Matrix that they participate in building, or they face a prisoner's dilemma in which they perceive it to be in their [psychopathic or sociopathic] best interest to act as a projector of the image of the Matrix in which they specialize.
What it comes down to is that the Matrix is not about implanting chips in people's brains—though I'm not saying that is an impossible process. The Matrix, as it currently exists, is simply the way that the fascist marriage between the state, corporations, militaries, academia, and other Mandarins engineer a projected reality both to its faithful and to as many people as possible in the range of the event horizon of its reach.
Understand that I would be happy to give any of these people credit for coming on the Rounding the Earth podcast as a guest.
During the pandemic, the world has been under a constant bombardment of controlled information designed to sound authoritative. But a closer examination reveals many of these proxy authorities to be paper thin, if not bad actors—sometimes in more ways than one.
There are too many examples of performative science and performative scientists to list. Volumes have been written about performative science coming from the mouths of powerful people such as Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But there is also an interesting form of bottom-feeding influencers participating who collectively reach a wider and more diverse audience. These include anything from the criminally desperate to losers in the competitive academic industry. Let's walk through some examples.
At the end of this article, I will be introducing you to a new Performative Scientist on the scene. This is a special day for him. He is in…interesting company.
Perhaps the most poignant thing to say about Angela Rasmussen is that her Wikipedia page, begun on March 31, 2020, is the first encyclopedic article on any scientist ever that includes every ounce of her career. That was a few weeks after she was featured in an article about how Activist Group MeTooSTEM faced allegations of internal harassment at the leadership level. Make of that what you will.
But her primary role in the pandemic has been as part of one of the teams performing a "critical review" of the SARS-CoV-2 origins debate (Holmes et al, 2021). And then to bark at people on Twitter about it.
Paul Thacker's write up on Angela is devastating. Definitive. Brutal.
Elaine Dewar's writeup on Angela is also worth soaking up if you aren't bored of her already.
You will have to forgive me, but I cannot not call this uberpretender, well-known for inflating his credentials as an unpaid volunteer at Harvard University, Eric Fecal-Dingleberry. There is that 14.93% of me that simply won't grow up, and I try to channel it in the most productive ways that I can. I'm only human.
I have previously written about the great Fecal-Dingleberry here.
Jordan Schachtel's article on the Fecal-Dingleberry includes the story of how Eric sent his own kid to another country in order to be able to go to school while he advocated for American lockdowns.
David Gorski, MD, PhD
Because people who need you to see their credential letters on Twitter are the most secure in their expertise, am I right?
Gorski is an oncologist who may or may not have chosen that profession because he enjoys burning people. He is part of the editorial team at the Science-Based Medicine blog that attacks any sufficiently important target that defies "The Science". He also writes under the pseudonym Orac at the full-stop attack blog Respectful Insolence, where his verbally vicious nature gets a bit more unhinged.
Once upon a time, Gorski claimed to me that he has read "pretty much every HCQ study" (out of around 200?) in November, 2020 (I actually had). So, I asked him four simple questions about the research, and he did not answer any of them, and then blocked me.
I would be willing to host him for a discussion of the hydroxychloroquine research on the RTE podcast. It would include a more complete quiz, including, "For which viruses do you recommend not taking an antiviral until after viral replication is largely complete?"
But Gorski has bigger targets than me. I'm old enough to remember that time that Gorski challenged the world's most well-published microbiologist on Twitter about the Surgisphere dumpster fire.
At some point, I think he must have paid for Twitter bots because his past posts and replies leapt in popularity signals, and pretty uniformly, in a way that belies the natural accrual of popularity. Feel free to examine his retweet army and tell me if you disagree.
The Meta-Analytical Superfriends
When one person lacks the accomplishments to project authority, the best thing to do is to group them in a pack of four and sew them credible-looking capes at the BBC.
I wonder how that Merik-Sheldrick lawsuit is going.
How can you not trust that girl from school whom you never got to know because she studied so hard and now she's on the news? Don't you know how courageously she risks her life to put your grandma on a ventilator? Of course she deserves those 50,000 Instagram followers! OMG!
Hoshino was expertly diced up by Sarah Burwick.
Super-smiley TV doc Sara Kayat was there to explain to us how the AstraZeneca vaccine was 100% effective against hospitalization and death.
Does she…wind up like a pitcher in order to deliver each next prolonged smile? What is that?
Understand, I'm not saying that Sara is a bad faith actor. I think she's a tool for those who pay her, and that too much of her brain's energy is spent always smiling to have enough fuel left to think it all through.
Back to the Vax "Reformed Antivaxxer Moms"
The Back to the Vax "Reformed Antivaxxers" Heather Simpson and Lydia Greene are so over that whole antivax fad that of course they project snark at people who disagree with them and are working through rational assessment of risks and benefits.
Nobody could possibly think that, along with the dates of account creation, could possibly be a red flag. And fellas, they're attainable, ya know?
Beware, this virologist, immunologist, and infectious disease expert is not the man behind the curtain at Pfizer or Moderna. He never shared a lab with Dr. Robert Malone or anything like that. He's an opinionated veterinarian.
Ippokratis Angelidis (if he exists) created a Twitter account, then made a super-viral tweet that seems staged on face, and is now a regular Twitter medical science influencer.
Leana "We Can't Trust the Unvaccinated" Wen falls into a special category insofar as I'm uncertain that she isn't a cyborg sent to Earth to confound and destroy. To her create, I suspect that no humanoid born outside of the U.S. ever spent so much time in dedicated practice of the enunciation of every English syllable in a hypnotic baritone.
There is more that I could say, but I'm just going to leave this here.
Only a man such as Topol with two-way credentials (I'll let you decide what that means) could be the front man for Futurist Medicine.
Who else belongs on this list of The Performative Sciencers?
One thing that all of these people share in common is that all of them speak overly confidently at a level of science that is beyond them. In most cases, an individual who recognizes a glitch in the Matrix—just a glimpse of reality—can recognize how on script they all seem to be with a singular narrative. The clear goal of such shenanigans is to generate the false appearance of consensus. Consensus is close to meaningless in important matters of science, of course. Where it exists naturally is usually at the trivial levels. There are experiments, results, and each observer interprets those results, which may involve logical mistakes in reasoning, but also may involve different vectors of thinking. The only time consensus matters is when you're trying to sell something to the public.
But we know that The Science of the pandemic is indeed met with debate, even if it is not propagated through most mass media.
And look—maybe I'm wrong about some of these people. Maybe one of them will grow up and found the next Theranos.
Does all this propaganda work both ways?
Let's Be Clear: This Works Both Ways
I could include numerous examples, and I have a few suspicions worth keeping in mind and also keeping in check. But I'll point to this article by Eric Coppolino who exposed "COVID Truth Celebrity" Poornima Wagh.
Always be discerning about whom you trust. That requires both your instincts and your critical thinking skills. Be careful in assuming that stepping out of one Matrix means you're not stepping into another Matrix built exclusively for those new dissidents green enough to think they've seen it all.
And now for the promised new addition to The Performative Science Club…
Dan "Debunk the Funk" Wilson
I'm not going to dwell much here on a description except to point out that molecular biologist Dan Wilson makes videos that follow the same template:
He talks down to/about scientists with many times the knowledge and experience he has in a superior, condescending manner and voice.
His content is often relatively vacuous, but even where there is content, you can read the comments to find people poking holes in many of his point.
He sells the fro with "the funk", which thusly relates to "The Science" (for some audience).
How much of an authority is Dan on all things biology as a recently minted PhD? Let's see…
There are a small handful of people in the world with broader experience with genetic sequencing than Kevin, a veteran of the Human Genome Project who frequently publishes experiments involving his own sequencing data. But if you read the whole twitter thread you'll find that Dan knows better than Kevin about that domain. Dan can also spot a lie a mile away!
So, when Dan told me on twitter that PCR was validated for both sides of the trial arms, I invited the world's most recent genius biologist to help me understand, or present data showing that the PCR tests used in the trials have similar sensitivity and specificity for the vaccinated so that we know the vaccines don't confound the testing.
Dan agreed to a meeting that would be livestreamed and recorded. I let him know that I was setting that up in Streamyard, meaning that I was handling that process. What Dan did not tell me was that he was livestreaming the conversation himself, but with my audio not loud enough for the audience to really hear what I was saying. His claim is that the muted volume was accidental, and it probably was. That's the sort of thing that happens when you rush to set things up after not being straight forward with your conversation partner about running a livestream.
During our chat, Dan did his best to dodge the fact that the PCR testing used in the Pfizer and Moderna trials was apparently never validated to have the same detection results for SARS-CoV-2 (sensitivity and specificity) in the vaccinated arm as the unvaccinated arm. That seems like something I would have prepared to talk about were I in his shoes. Instead, he rerouted the conversation away from simply testing for confounding (like the reason randomized controlled trials are prized), and asked (I paraphrase), "What would be the mechanism that would cause such confounding?" But Dan should know better than to suggest that we know all, or anywhere close to most of the mechanisms for what goes on in biology (particularly things that haven't yet been studied). Here are the first two lines in his one published paper (Wilson et al, 2020):
(Blue): We know about this thing.
(Yellow): We know little about the mechanisms.
That's most of the history of biology, which is why we…run tests to determine confounders. Or is that a crazy suggestion, now?
The conversation is hard to wade through because Dan's reactions seem in tune with an understanding that he does not have of the data relationships we discuss. He often reflexively disagrees with me, such as when I suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate varies seasonally (37:54).
But here are the two big things that happened during the conversation:
When we got to the point of quantifying true vs. false positive/negative rates, Dan had no idea how to do those basic calculations. He wants to point to positives and say, "See, none are false," without any warrant whatsoever. In fact, he wasn't able to define "sensitivity" and "specificity" at all!
During the conversation, Dan begins by defending the notion that validating the PCR for the vaccinated (as to be the same as for the unvaccinated) is unnecessary because the conditions/circumstances of the testing shouldn't matter. But he later (twice) does a 180 degree turn, which seems for the sake of weaseling through an argument, that conditions do matter (~50:45 and ~54:25).
While Dan never presents any data comparing PCR validity among the vaccinated with PCR validity among the unvaccinated, he maintains that there is data that I am denying.
But this seems at best based on a circular argument that he imagines in his head in which usage means analysis [and without an independent check]. This lack of understanding of basic logic is troubling for somebody walking around armed with a doctoral degree.
Jonathan Couey made some commentary about the conversation on his stream. Having tried to talk with Dan once, Jonathan was aware of Dan's annoying passive aggressive way of routing conversations through a maze while dodging the primary point.
I joined Couey for Round 2 of the rehash, which was a good opportunity to clean up some clutter. It was also one of the funniest moments of an amusing September for me.
If there were any doubts left, this is a relatively freshly minted PhD who doesn't understand the most important equation in all of (applied mathematics) biomedical science, and thinks potential confounders can just be wished away if a mechanism isn't pre-known. And he believes or portrays himself to be above Robert Malone in a position for genuine critique.
Don't get me wrong, there are a handful of things I'm willing to take the other side of Malone's position about. When the two of us spoke to the Honolulu City Council (where I was declared "DANGEROUS" for the outrageous suggestion that vitamins and minerals might be important for fending off disease), Malone said something like, "These vaccines are working as we hoped," before suggesting that they just aren't for children. It surprised me to hear him say that, and I do not believe that trustworthy data was ever there to support such a statement. I also don't know if he chose strategy, or has changed his mind since, but I don't like to see so much ground given up so easily. And without seeing a significant argument that hasn't yet emerged, I'll maintain that position whether or not he is awarded a Nobel Prize.
You know what I won't do? I won't pretend that my experience in biology or vaccinology is nearly at a level at which I was qualified to dismiss him or disparage his deep domain knowledge (and on weak argumentation by Dan, I might add). This is like the towel boy with a Lakers Staff shirt rolling up to the ladies, flashing the fro, and then acting like he owns the Staples Center. This is a politician's performance, which is what happens when you get through a PhD without understanding the ground floor elementary level of math involved in half the stuff you're talking about.
This is not about Science. This is about dictating perceptions of reality to people who don't have enough time to sort it all out.
Revisiting the Asch "Conformity" Experiment
Several people reached out to me to warn me that talking to Dan was a waste of time. But my personal information dictum is that all information is valuable. Sure, I can make economic choices, but I felt like there was a solid chance that Dan would expose himself. I wasn't wrong.
From that point, I would like for readers to consider the roles of Dan and other poorly educated scientists in the pandemic.
The result of hearing your chief say that the line on the left is the same in length as A while hearing the other chief of the rival tribe say that the line on the left is the same in length as C could eventually reach something Asch saw in the responses of many of the participants who conformed. He called it “distortion of perception”. After the daily repetition of tribal pronouncements, the differences between the lengths of the lines (or the results of studies) really do begin to blur so that all that remains is the gut-wrenching courage to make an independent judgment askew from one’s tribe.
Once an influencer succeeds, their words can be used to denigrate other people—even if that level of judgment looks utterly insane to the rest of the world. That doesn't mean that it can't be effective. Busy people and people who need a greater feeling of belonging commonly outsource their credibility assessments, and the consequences can be disastrous. And whichever side you might think is built on unqualified analysis, the Precautionary Principle would be the ounce of prevention.
I'm planning a second article in which I will dig into some specific facts regarding my conversations with Dan, Jonathan, and Kevin, and also things that Dan does while playing mind games (aside from being willing to take a 180 degree shift within an hour in order to make you think he's winning an argument).