Fact checkers and dynamic semantics

Today, there is a self-appointed organization with the “authority” to decide what information is trustworthy, the Trusted News Initiative (TNI).

“The Trusted News Initiative partners will continue to work together to ensure legitimate concerns about future vaccinations are heard whilst harmful disinformation myths are stopped in their tracks.” -Tim Davie, Director-General

TNI's partners are the following: “AP, AFP; BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, First Draft, Google/YouTube, The Hindu, Microsoft, Reuters, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Twitter, The Washington Post.” [1]

That effectively means that all the information consumed from these sources is subjected to censorship. It is up to them and not you to separate the wheat from the chaff.

When we talk about vaccines, the TNI is aligned to whatever the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)—an organization primarily funded by the US government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—deemed as truth. Under the narrative of “follow the science”, they actively suppress any information that contradicts the CDC and WHO (both public health agencies and not scientific organizations).

For me, science is first and foremost about skepticism, not faith; scientific advancement comes from challenging what's deemed as truth at some point in time. “Follow the science” makes sense if and only if you have access to all the scientific views, not only to one view that some organizations decide is the “correct” one. We need scientists and experts to help us to understand what is going on, but it is up to us to draw conclusions and decide accordingly. I'm one of those who hold freedom in higher regard than security (whether is real or just a false sense of security).

A complex and multi-factorial problem such as the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be solved without contrasting and considering different strategies and points of view. Artificially manufactured consensus is harmful in many ways and beyond the current public health crisis.

It is outrageous to witness how those organizations who we're supposed to trust barefacedly (try to) change the meaning of concepts used to describe reality. One example I came across recently is the definition of heard immunity, a concept that pops up frequently in pandemic-related discussions:

W.H.O redefining herd immunity

In the last year, the WHO provided three different definitions:

9 June 2020:

“Herd immunity is indirect the protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. This means that even people who haven't been infected or in whom an infection hasn't triggered an immune response, they are protected because people around them who are immune can act as buffers between them and an infected person. The threshold for establishing herd immunity for COVID-19 is not yet clear.”

15 October 2020 (Archived page link):

‘Herd immunity’, also known as ‘population immunity’, is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.

Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.

Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as ‘antibodies’, just as would happen when we are exposed to a disease but – crucially – vaccines work without making us sick. Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease in question and passing it on, breaking any chains of transmission

31 December 2020 (current version) (Archived page link):

'Herd immunity', also known as 'population immunity', is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. WHO supports achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.

Herd immunity against COVID-19 should be achieved by protecting people through vaccination, not by exposing them to the pathogen that causes the disease. Read the Director-General’s 12 October media briefing speech for more detail.

Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as ‘antibodies’, just as would happen when we are exposed to a disease but – crucially – vaccines work without making us sick. Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease in question and passing on the pathogen, breaking any chains of transmission.

At first, I could not believe that they asserted that herd immunity could only be achieved through vaccination (October 2020 version), that's a plain lie.

The second point (still available in the current definition on WHO website) is that “vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease in question and passing on the pathogen, breaking any chains of transmission”. Specifically, not “passing on the pathogen and break any chains of transmission” is true for sterilizing vaccines, which none of the current COVID-19 vaccines is. The fact that mass vaccination wouldn't prevent the spread of the virus, simply because these vaccines do not induce sterilizing immunity, is something that some scientists warned before the vaccines were rolled out. It is ridiculous that the (TNI-approved) scientific community starts to make this public now as if it was something they just found out.

Are these the organizations I should blindly trust?

As mentioned before, I'm one of those who value freedom, which means every individual has the right to weigh the pros and cons, and decide whether or not to get vaccinated.

Follow THE science? I agree.

Follow your science? —one that mindlessly changes the semantics of terms to adjust the perceived reality— I would prefer not to.

References: [1] Trusted News Initiative (TNI) to combat spread of harmful vaccine disinformation and announces major research project