Lately, I read one of those pompously called « counter-expertise » papers, which is in the family of American fact checking. It has become the new fashion of our media of fear. Its revival is one of the signatures of the crisis of credibility of these media, whose methods are similar to the American watchdog journalism, a journalism of denunciation, whose drifts, today, are obvious.
This paper tried to demonstrate my lack of rigor in the demographic study that I had carried out at the beginning of the year 2021 and that, on the basis of a standardization of the last 20 years, compares them to the year 2020(1).
The very idea of standardization is to make comparable what is not comparable. How to compare from one year to the next a population that is aging from year to year while increasing, that is to say, where gradually, mechanically, we die more. This is the paradoxical situation we have been living in since the last war. So we need to make things comparable from year to year. To do this, we standardize by age group and sex. The technique is simple and is explained in the above mentioned article. When the years have become comparable to each other, we can then, with much more security, observe the differences between the years and ask ourselves questions. Why is it that in one year there are more, or less, deaths than in another? What are the causes of these differences: social, societal, economic, political or even health?
Not wanting to make unnecessary publicity to its author, let’s call him « Jojo the mateu », (my apologies for the Jojo’s, because those I know are good people), since he claims to be an excellent mathematician, and I am happy for him. First, he tries to show what standardization is. Let’s move on, that’s half his business. Then, without any real transition, not being able to see any factual errors in my work, and I’m happy for me (!), he looks back at the last two years, 2019 and 2020, and compares them monthly to each other, without any standardization. One wonders who is lacking in rigor. But that’s just a small detail, let’s not be petty. Except that this raises two observations: on the one hand, it is an inaccuracy and, on the other hand, it is largely out of context, the purpose of the disputed article is not to make a monthly comparison of raw data between two years: these are tricks, here rather frustrating and naive, to bend the observation to its thesis.
Indeed, only the comparison with the raw data of the year 2019 finds favor in his eyes because, he writes, it is the only year not tainted by a « societal » bias (?), while, necessarily, more distant years are … Oh, well, why? This is an abrupt explanation, to say the least, pulled out of his hat, with no other basis. Moreover, this is called putting the cart before the horse, since, on the contrary, it is the analysis of the results of demographic standardization that makes it possible to ask questions of causality with greater certainty, especially societal causality. This is its purpose. Rigor, rigor, where are you? In other words, according to this energetic person, the analysis must stop with the nose in the handlebars and not go any further. In short, data standardization is useless, if we follow this reasoning to its conclusion.
Beyond the anecdote, this nth episode of Les Ridicules illustrates the way these well-named fake check, fact checking, fake off, fake news, facky, decoders, and other joyful things are built.
It illustrates some rules in the exercise of the genre and they are not the only ones:
- Always attack and denounce the person.
- Always bring the overview back to the restricted area, keep your nose to the grindstone.
- Always go along with the majority discourse in order to create the illusion of unanimity.
- To bend the observation to its thesis, by the use of voluntary imprecisions, of slips out of context allowing in particular pseudo-similarities.
- Avoid dealing in one’s competence, but use it to go where one is not competent. Here a mateu who deals with public health, as if he were a great specialist. If he did it well, so be it, but he didn’t.
I offer you this astonishing example: the avalanche of insults that fell on Professor Luc Montagnier when he raised the hypothesis of a virus resulting from genetic engineering at the beginning of the crisis in 2020. How many fact checks, facky (it’s cooler) and other such offices, have not been made against him. However, he was in his field of knowledge and competence, he is a Nobel Prize winner and therefore in principle recognized as being exceptionally competent, and despite this, the number of incompetents in the field who spoke out with vigor and authority to call him names and spit on his hypothesis was quite incredible. One had the impression that almost all the mainstream « journalism », in a sort of collective hysteria, was there with its insults, playing the unanimity allowing the absolution of the liars. Today, his hypothesis is taken very seriously by his peers. This episode, worthy of the annals of large-scale journalistic lies, deserves reflection.
This is, however, only one example, which has become a classic and commonplace example of » scientism « , as defined by the Nobel Prize winner Freiderich Hayek: » The scientistic point of view, which is different from the scientific point of view, is not an approach without prejudice; on the contrary, it is an approach full of prejudice which, even before considering its object, asserts to know the most appropriate way to study it « (2).
There are countless examples of this. This new manufacture of false information, in the form of « scientism », i.e. prejudices considered as directors of the truth, including scientific truth, whatever the nature and the means used, under paradoxical names and under the cover of respectability, is certainly due to the arrogance of these media of fear which do not do their work any more with care, probity and honesty, but which use this new tool that they discover, the « scientific ». fact checking « , today rogue, to comfort themselves in their unique thought and especially to conform to the » entre-soi », to what I had called the political-scientific-media agreement. It has become a tool of totalitarianism in the sense that I proposed(3).
- « The scientistic as distinguished from the scientific view is not an unprejudiced but a very prejudiced approach which, before it has considered its subject, claims to know what is the most appropriate way of investigating it. » Scientism and the Study of Society, 1942
- « Vraiment », Kairos n°50, été 2021