Imagine, for one fleeting moment, that an eminent scientist who had regularly appeared in the media throughout the pandemic took to social media one day to declare that having considered the matter, he had developed suspicions – without any evidence, mind you – that the Covid vaccines might cause autism in children.
Do we think that scientist would ever be heard from in the media again? We all know the answer.
Here’s Trinity Neuroscientist, and media darling, Dr. Tomas “Zero Covid” Ryan, yesterday, bleating about how he thinks the virus might cause autism in unborn children. He has no evidence for this claim. Zero. None. Thanks to Niall Boylan of 4FM for catching it:
Tomas Ryan who promotes #ZeroCovid said in the recent webinar. He admits he has “no data” to back up his claim but goes on to suggest Covid could be a factor in autism at foetal stage. Making claims with no data or evidence is nothing more than guessing & scare tactics pic.twitter.com/j9VRVCroFS
— Niall Boylan (@Niall_Boylan) May 19, 2021
On February 23rd, Gript published internal emails from Ryan’s working group – ISAG – which revealed that the collection of scientists and commentators who had come together to campaign for Zero Covid were being advised to “look for ways to increase uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety”. The authenticity of those documents is not in dispute: Nobody denies that they are real. Faced with an embarrassing story for the Zero Covid crowd, the rest of the media decided that the best approach was simply to pretend that the story did not exist.
Three months later, here is Ryan, telling whoever will listen that Covid 19 might cause autism, based on nothing else than his own private suspicions.
This is not science. Science is evidence based. Claims made scientifically can be challenged, because other scientists can scrutinise the evidence, and determine whether the evidence supports the claim being made.
This is not science.
What is it, then?
Does it perhaps fall into the category of “misinformation” that the media are so often warning us about? Is there not a danger that such misinformation might take off, and circulate wildly in whatsapp groups, like the infamous claim, in the early stages of the pandemic, that martial law was imminent?
That claim, of course, has been the subject of endless media examinations into the subject of fake news and disinformation. This claim, you can be absolutely certain, will not get that treatment.
It will not get the honour of a fact-check on the Journal. It will not get a Prime Time feature explaining why it is false.
Unlike the claim about the Army, where the media could not even determine where the misinformation came from, the source of this particular absurdity is right there, on camera, speaking the words himself.
A media genuinely committed to tackling misinformation could, of course, drag him into a television studio, and ask him to make that claim to a panel of experts, who could react.
That will not happen, of course. Because the media does not really care about misinformation. It cares only about misinformation that challenges the idea that Covid is an existential disaster. As noted right at the beginning, if Dr. Ryan had suggested, with no evidence, that it was the Covid vaccines that cause autism, he would never appear in the Irish media again, and it would be the subject of endless fact-checks. With this, though, everyone will pretend not to notice.
The whole thing, my friends, is rotten. Different rules, depending on who your friends are.