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Double Think = Group Think

During the past 14 months, two vastly different opinions have emerged within the scientific community about the severity, and mitigation strategy surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Both sides recognize that the Covid-19 virus can be a deadly and clinically devastating disease. One in three Americans know somebody who has died from the disease yet 91% have not contracted the disease. The all-case fatality rates in the United States have changed little since the onset of the pandemic which means people are dying mostly with the disease and not of the disease.

In 2019 the all-case fatality rate was 2,600,000 and that increased by 200,000 in 2020 according to the CDC and The Federal Agency for Health Care Statistics. If you are less than 65 years of age you have a 99.4% chance of surviving the disease if you test positive. 51% of the people who have died from the disease are over 80 years of age and they make up less than 4% of the total population. Even those over the age of 75 have a 90% chance of surviving the disease. Great strides have been made on the clinical side regarding treatment strategies and this is mostly due to the innovations precipitated by doctors and nurses using the internet to access information from sister institutions in almost real time, as opposed to having to undergo the peer review process and develop “clinical standards of care” guidelines that can take years to promulgate. Every day clinicians used their own entrepreneurial devices to solve problems in real time and they didn’t wait for directives to come from on high via academicians or government bureaucrats.

But why the differences in opinion? I have three thoughts and I will explore each in a separate article. First, in this article, I will discuss “group think” and its 1st cousin ‘political correctness’. Second and probably of greatest importance to scientists and clinicians is an underappreciation for various levels of RISK TOLERANCE and the lack of defining such tolerance within statistical “confidence parameters”. In this regard modeling by statisticians from the University of Washington to Oxford has been atrocious. John’s Hopkins, a group from Stanford, and the Mayo Clinic have been dead on target. And finally, the idea of a political narrative inserting itself into the science of the pandemic will be discussed.

Two weeks ago a great American died and little was noted of his bravery. Bob “Two Way” Ebeling was a Morton Thiokol Engineer who strongly protested the launch of the challenger space shuttle that subsequently exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. He argued as one engineer against over a hundred about the “O RINGS” that attached rockets to the shuttle. The experts took a vote, and it was over 100-5 in favor of the launch in freezing temperatures. There was pressure from NASA administrators and even politicians to proceed with the launch. Bob was right. He was the one expert in the room that had fully realized the ramifications of a launch under unfavorable conditions. The report of his protestations before the launch were not reported on by the press until months and even years after the fact. He had the courage of his convictions. The others refused to “buck the trend” for a variety of reasons—financial, political, even just a fear of voicing a minority opinion. GROUP THINK won the day and people
died.

In 1949 George Orwell Published the book “1984”. In the book he used the word “doublethink” to in his words, “connote a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgements, as a result of peer pressure.” In the book the country of OCEANA used totalitarian strategies of mass surveillance by the “thought police” and media, to suppress independent thinking and ideas. Those who differed with the opinion of those in government or the media were marginalized, ostracized, characterized, and made to in some cases to disappear. Clinical Psychologist Irving Janus in 1972 coined the term “group think” describing the same phenomena.

Surprisingly, peer pressure is more important than the need to be correct. It is the need to be accepted by peers and the public. Politicians live by being popular with their constituents so making unpopular decisions makes them less popular. Being accepted by one’s peers is very important in the field of science. An unpopular idea or theory is always met with skepticism, but every theory and idea in science should be met with skepticism and its validity should not be based on its popularity. Many of the great scientific projects of the last 200 years were said to be impossible. Remember when we were told in May by Dr. Fauci that the vaccine may take years to be ready? When President Trump said months everybody scoffed and laughed. Not because they had any insight into the problem, but because they wanted to be part of the “in crowd” and in the know. It was easier to go along with the experts than it was to investigate the President’s claims.

One other problem inherent in group think and politics is the idea of consensus leadership. Politicians have to make deals to get bills passed and they have a mandate to serve from the people that elected them. This model works in some well-defined cases, but Donald Trump accomplished great things by leading from the front, many times fighting for causes that were uncomfortable with the media and those living in the “Swamp” Great leaders many times ask more of us than we think we have to give. The Captain of a ship doesn’t ask for a vote of the crew when an emergency on board places them all at risk. Courage—as Hemmingway said “grace under pressure” is most of the time lacking in a consensus leadership model. In some cases, consensus is pursued because of a lack of courage.

I have received hundreds of e-mails, mostly from nurses but also from many doctors, virologists and pathologists supporting my positions and beliefs about the pandemic. Those working for large hospitals and the State of Idaho are reluctant to make their views known in public because of feared retribution from their employers. But scientists from all over the world—maybe 30% have tried to have their opinions made known publicly and have been suppressed. 30,000 medical professionals have signed THE GREAT BARRINGTON DECLARATION authored by scientists from Stanford, Harvard and Oxford. Stanford University scientists Dr’s Scott Atlas, Dr. Benevid oh and Dr’s Bhattacharya, and Ioannidis have all suffered outlandish criticisms in technical journals as has Dr. Marty Makaray at Johns Hopkins. In the end they have been correct far more often than the experts. Their voices and arguments have been suppressed by a press and media that is more interested in supporting a political narrative. But we’ve been right from the beginning—read my 1st article from March 11th.

Remember what Hitler’s head of propaganda Joseph Goebbels said? Would that be the same as being the head of CNN, MSNBC, or The Idaho Statesman, CBS or NBC : “A lie told once remains a lie, a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”

“Groupthink” does not lend itself to truth telling. Does it?

MAGA “Fight Like Hell”

One reply on “Double Think = Group Think”

You make a couple of very important points in your missive. What jumped out at me, reading the part of your missive relating to politicians making deals, is a point concerning compromise. Making deals is really an act of compromise and a compromised product is probably a mediocre product. I too have tried to urge citizens to understand the processes that guide their lives and the process of compromise is a very important and often neglected aspect of great importance. The whole idea of compromise within a political body must be understood for what the possible negative outcomes of those compromises could be. Certainly the name “Neville Chamberlain” will live in the history books as the most naive of compromisers.

Certain things, in my mind, can’t be compromised, like the Constitution of the United States and yet right in front of our eyes we see politicians making deals to compromise our most sacred political document. What kind of core values have been inculcated into politicians who would compromise our Constitution? And a corollary to that is what kind of core values do our citizens, who voted for these politicians, embrace? It all comes down to the fact that no compromise can be allowed when our core values are in question.

But it seems that our population is at a point that they don’t understand the importance of establishing core values and realizing their importance. I guess that brings us back to the point that we must get involved in the educational system in order to ensure our citizens gain the proper historical perspective concerning core values. Our Democratic Republic depends on our citizens understanding the importance of establishing the time honored core values that made America Great and that will make them stronger while at the same time making their nation stronger.

Another point you made about being a nice guy and being popular rings true to me and I am sure you saw this over the decades being a doctor. Doctors orders are certainly not the most popular thing and involve delayed gratification. I am sure telling patients to go home and eat candy or drink beer would have made you more popular since instant gratification is involved. But discipline, although it may not be popular, is certainly the best option in virtually all outcomes.

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