First published in France-Soir (in French) on August 30, 2020
In 1941, during the Nazi occupation of France, at the Sorbonne winery in Paris, the clandestine newspaper Défense de la France — France Soir was born, founded by leaders Robert Salmon and Philippe Viannay.
The young French resistance journalists sought to denounce the fascist government of occupation. They understood the importance of fighting the official narrative. Heroically circumventing censorship, in 1944, they distributed 450,000 copies daily. The newspaper carried a phrase by the philosopher Blaise Pascal: “I only believe in stories where witnesses would be killed”. This was the destiny of many.
In addition to the news, they printed documents to support persecuted Jews. They were, without a doubt, good men. Certainly, without them, the 60,000 French Jews sent to concentration camps would be greater.
Every dictatorship involves controlling the narrative. That is the rule. People cannot know clearly what is going on. It was like that during the second world war. With a single narrative, some of the French, deceived, supported the regime, imprisoned for complicity with the occupation, accepting what was not natural, fascism, as natural.
Today there is an official narrative in Western countries. It involves the biggest threat of the moment: the coronavirus. It has already killed more than 800 thousand people and brought down the world economy in an immense crisis.
This narrative states that there is no treatment for COVID-19. It says that hydroxychloroquine is neither effective nor scientifically proven. It also states that the drug is dangerous, with serious side effects, from fatal cardiac arrhythmias to blindness caused by the drug.
The problem with this story is that it has flaws that can be easily refuted. Hydroxychloroquine is a 65-year-old drug. During its long history of use, many studies have been conducted on the drug.
This study, for example, from 2003, states that until used for six continuous years, no one had blurred vision. This other, from 2019, states that only 0.68% of people develop blurred partial vision between 5 and 7 years of continuous use.
On risks to the heart, this 2018 study says that hydroxychloroquine actually reduces cardiovascular risks. It is exactly the opposite of the widespread hysteria that we hear out there. Even when azithromycin is taken together.
At the same time, the mainstream media tries to affirm that there is a consensus among scientists, as if the use of this medicine was already an outdated and closed subject.
Seeing this inconsistency, I decided to keep looking, in the sources, for the facts. Keeping up with studies, reading the tweets of scientists and journalists is like learning about backstage conversations. In this context, I have been following the story from the beginning. The vast majority of people decided not to follow it; after all, the idea was defended by Trump, and he only speaks nonsense when referring to science.
Everyone who says it works is censored and attacked
Professor Didier Raoult, an infectologist from Marseille, France, proposed treatment with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antibiotic. Didier is an award-winning scientist in his community. He has a high level international reputation. Having published almost 3,000 scientific articles in PubMed.
He is treated, in the mainstream media and on specialized websites, like a charlatan. The “For Better Science” website by Leonid Schneider, a science journalist from Frankfurt, was one of the first to produce an extremely disappointing article. Yes, Didier has things that are controversial, but they are nothing serious. Leonid classifies himself as an independent science journalist and promises to give good scientists a voice against power and money.
By coincidence, negative stories appear in a Google search before Raoult’s own Wikipedia entry. This is equivalent to me looking for Lewis Hamilton and the first links being in-depth analyses of his grotesque error at the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix, building a narrative that says Lewis doesn’t know how to drive a car.
This is not what happens. When looking for Lewis, first comes his twitter account, then his Wikipedia page.
“Miracle cure” is the pejorative term used for anyone who dares to use or talk about this medication. In the US, doctor Vladimir Zelenko of New York was relentlessly labeled a healer. His videos on youtube were censored.
Simone Gold, a certified US emergency room physician, is one of the leaders of the American Frontline Doctors group. They got together and gave a press conference. After the video had 17 million views, it was censored by Facebook and Twitter. The claim? Fact-checkers said they misinformed.
Yes, the current bizarre situation is that fact-checking journalists say what doctors and scientists can and cannot talk about on social media. Soon after, Simone was fired from her job. Even the “clandestine newspaper”, the group’s website, lost its hosting.
Yale’s professor Harvey Risch followed the research, analyzed it and concluded that it should be applied immediately. It would save many lives, he concluded. Soon he was attacked. The attack was refuted in a subsequent article.
Today we have reached the grotesque point of having scientists producing unsigned studies to avoid persecution.
Any investigation first asks the question, the starting point: who cares? In this case, who is interested in disqualifying this treatment?
The first alleged disqualification came from the lack of a randomized, double-blind, peer-reviewed clinical trial, published in a reputable journal. This is the “gold standard of science”. The claim is that without these studies, there is no scientific evidence.
Since then, incredible things have happened. The two most respected journals in the medical world, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, published two fraudulent studies. Disqualified the medicine. It is the biggest scandal in modern science. Soon these studies were retracted.
An unprecedented inversion of values between left to right
The right is obscure, works with fake news, is traditionally anti-science, creates conspiracy theories like communist infiltrations in universities and cultural Marxism, denies global warming, is anti-vaccine and protects the interests of large corporations.
The left is based on science, listens to experts, scholars, makes passionate pro-science speeches and denounces the evil powers of capitalism, when corporations put all their interests in profit above the interests of the collective.
The right, in the U.S., with Trump, and in Brazil, with Bolsonaro, is advocating treatment with a cheap, generic drug that won’t make anyone rich and costs $10 per patient.
The left is defending the discourse of only applying the drug if there is the maximum level of scientific evidence, the “randomized, double blind, peer-reviewed studies published in a prestigious medical journal”.
This position is perfect to defend the interests of the big pharmaceutical companies. Blind confidence in the opinions of scientists, without understanding their motivations and egos, left the left wing uncritical.
It is a false position. This 2005 article by Richard Smith explains that “medical journals are an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies”.
Furthermore, this article, from 2018, explains that this “gold standard” is not as shiny as they claim.
The treatment proposed by Didier Raoult talks about the application of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as soon as the first symptoms appear.
Today we have 79 observational studies, 47 of which are peer-reviewed. For pre-exposure, post-exposure and early treatment prophylaxis, we have 100% positive results for hydroxychloroquine treatment. For treatments in patients with advanced disease, where no antiviral has much effect, we have 60% of studies recommending the drug.
“Where’s the positive RCT?” It is the question asked in order to end the debate. It turns out that nobody wants to do this study of early treatment with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, proposed by Didier Raoult.
It is expensive and no one has an interest in sponsoring it. Shortly after the fake studies published in Lancet and NEJM, the NIH study, exactly as proposed by Raoult for early use in the disease, was canceled.
Want to know the outcome of the US elections? Look at science.
Donald Trump made the bet on this treatment. But everyone needs to prove, all the time, that Trump is wrong. More than 170,000 Americans have died.
Trump insisted several times. If the “scientific confirmation” comes before the elections, Trump will surf over all opponents and be easily re-elected. His position is easy: he will say that the opposition decided to let people die instead of assuming that he was right in his bet.
If he does not “prove” his position, Trump will be the world’s worst leader in leading the pandemic and he will not be re-elected.
The scientific confirmation and Trump’s re-election is in a NEJM drawer, but the U.S. intelligence service is very bad and doesn’t know it
The maximum value for fundamentalist scientists today are: randomized, controlled, peer-reviewed studies and published in prestigious medical journals.
The latest definitive proof of anyone wishing to maintain that hydroxychloroquine is useless is sharing the link to the study by David Boulware, from the University of Minnesota, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. People ignore the various positive observational studies and say that this presents a higher level of evidence.
This is the final argument for the anti-hydroxychloroquine position.
Boulware’s study is very bad, but it served as a narrative. He is deficient in coronavirus identification tests, he sent the medication by mail, he was not sure who had contracted the virus and communication with patients was over the internet.
Yes. An internet survey became a reference in the world to talk about whether a medication works or not.
Even with a positive result, it was not statistically significant. The 22-author study concludes that the drug is useless.
It was about post-exposure prophylaxis: when a person in contact with someone who was infected started taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent catching the disease himself.
Some took the medicine the day after exposure. Others on the second, or the third, or the fourth day. Boulware brought everyone together, did the math, and concluded that it doesn’t work.
The interesting thing about scientific works is that researchers are obliged to open all data. With them open, Marcio Watanabe, a professor of statistics at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, in Rio de Janeiro, redid the calculations and produced a study that is an incendiary bomb in for US politics.
Whoever took the medicine on the first day after exposure had a very positive and statistically proven result. This is confirmation at the “highest level of scientific evidence”.
Watanabe sent the study to the New England Journal of Medicine more than a month ago. It is a review that alters the result of this study. It’s lost over there. They, apparently, conveniently aligned with the official narrative, paid no attention.
Nobody wants to do randomized studies. In the few that exist, it a change in result means a complete change of narrative in favor of the medication.
The fact that yet another “high-credibility” study published by NEJM needed to be altered because of its false conclusions, means an easy re-election of Donald Trump. After all, he was right in his bet. The previous one published in NEJM had to be removed, it was so shameful.
How will Trump’s opponents say that the definitive, negative example study, now, with altered results, no longer has value?
Are they going to criticize the study and try to say that it is not good? The narrative explodes like a bomb.
Public pressure from Trump requires NEJM to respond and change the outcome. There are no risks for Trump; it’s just math. The Scientists’ call for such a review has so far been ignored. It is the “game changer”.
Trump thus brings the narrative to him, and finally, worldwide, in a cascade effect; the drug is upheld, saving lives.
The good Germans
During the 2018 elections in Brazil, with Bolsonaro, of fascist tendencies, participating, some people decided to make alerts. German Oliver Stuenkel, a university professor of international relations, wrote a memorable article in Spain’s El Pais Brasil newspaper: “Why we voted for Hitler.” He explained all the mistakes of the German people in the 1930s.
Germans rightly see themselves as having a moral obligation to teach the world the mistakes, dangers and omissions they have suffered in the past. Fascism, as the immortal Bertold Brecht explained, is “a bitch who is always in heat”.
Like doctors and scientists censored on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, I suffered censorship. My article “Hydroxychloroquine: the narrative that it doesn’t work is the biggest hoax in recent human history” was censored on Medium.com.
In the first days it had few accesses. Soon after he went viral. 55 thousand views in the English version and 25 thousand in the Portuguese version. It was read by people who matter.
My grandfather was arrested during the dictatorship of Brazil, which occurred from 1964 to 1985. Military men took him, with machine guns, in a car. He was accused of being a rebel.
Hollywood makes several films where it tries to convince me that the USA is the land of freedom. My country has a history of dictatorships. The United States does not. (Perhaps because there is no USA embassy in the USA).
Even so, in Brazil, I never suffered censorship. On a US digital tool, I was censored.
Stuenkel explained where authoritarian regimes could lead. Censorship is just the beginning. First books are burned, then people.
German also, Leonid Schneider, from the famous site “For Better Science”, unable to answer my article logically, and seeing that I was censored, preferred to celebrate and satisfy his ego. A German who does not stand up to censorship!
And calmly, I say: if Leonid was concerned with “better science”, he would be demanding a response from NEJM to the study by Marcio Watanabe. He is not doing that.
Shortly after being censored, an American from Atlanta, irritated by the censorship of Medium, created a website to host my article. He had already predicted that it would be censored and had made a copy.
A friend called me saying that my article ran at the top of the pharmaceutical industry. “It will explode soon,” he said.
I had a bad historical memory when I was censored. I felt violated. Ironically, I was rescued by a newspaper that was born avoiding censorship.
France Soir published it in French. The newspaper is not the same as it was in its golden days. Today it is only digital and with few people. "But we have the same resistance spirit", said Xavier Azalbert, the newspaper director of publication.
However, it was a pleasure to have an article of mine published in a newspaper where Jean Paul Sartre, Robert Salmon, Pierre Lazareff and Philippe Viannay used to write.
After censorship is over, one question still remains: Does Donald Trump want to be re-elected?