The Lack of Critical Thinking in Journalism.

The Media and its Reporting of ME

Many have described, far better than I, the numerous indignities inflicted on your typical ME sufferer by the modern media. Whether relating to their inability to name it correctly, ME, CFS, Yuppie Flu, Chronic Fatigue, subtle hint journalists the latter two don’t exist as medically defined conditions, or the various treatments/cures we have hoisted upon us. Personally I’ve lost count of the number of friends and relatives who think my neurological condition would be cured instantaneously were I only to take more cold baths or eat vomit-inducing quantities of raw vegetables. The term ‘chronic fatigue’ rankles especially, as it is a symptom of numerous illnesses from glandular fever to cancer yet its use in the media is solely as a synonym for ME.

My primary complaint regarding the media is their inability to engage even the semblance of critical thinking when it comes to some of the psychiatrists who have been the bane of ME sufferers since at least 1969. This is by no means unique to ME, MS patients had to endure decades of abuse from the medical/psychiatric profession due to their suffering from ‘hysterical paralysis’. Your average medic rarely misses an opportunity to abuse a patient, especially if they are young and female, as evidenced by the likes of Sophia Mirza and Karina Hansen, the latter currently being tortured in Denmark with the acquiescence of the Danish authorities.

To reach the main object of this post, a few years ago a certain psychiatrist came out with the, on the face of it absurd, comment that he felt safer when working in Afghanistan than he does in the UK, so under threat does he feel from the ME community when occupying our sceptred isle. In my opinion, that has to be one of the most facile and nonsensical comments uttered by a psychiatrist since that profession arose. Naively, very naively as it turns out, I expected the media to rip such a statement to shreds. More fool me. In fact they reported his facile statement in a credulous and unchallenging fashion, as though it were a perfectly reasonable comment and concentrated their wrath on the ME community for supposedly threatening the ‘poor and defenceless’ psychiatric establishment. The majority of ME sufferers are extremely ill, with no power or voice to challenge such libellous and slanderous bilge, originating from a well-connected establishment figure.

Let me put this simply, the psychiatrist’s comments represented an outrageous slur on both the inhabitants of Afghanistan, who have to endure the atrocities perpetrated in their part of the world, and the British troops who served there, facing untold dangers daily. The fact the media reported his comments verbatim without any critique was astonishing and perplexing. Perhaps they could have made a comparison between the numbers of psychiatrists ‘treating’ ME patients killed in the UK in the last ten years compared to British troops killed in Afghanistan. Let me make this clear, NO psychiatrist in the UK has been physically harmed by a member of the ME community, though many members of the community have been harmed by the psychiatric profession.

However august the figure making comments like those mentioned above, they are still nonsense and the British public have the right to expect the media to report them as such, not act as though they’ve been universally lobotomised by parroting such inane and idiotic guff.

Utting-Wolff

14 thoughts on “The Lack of Critical Thinking in Journalism.

  1. salkeela

    It does seem that the media have a sort of unspoken collective view that ME patients are just people who complain of tiredness a lot. The name “chronic fatigue” almost seems designed to give this impression too!

    Yet getting ME can be frightening – not just because of the media ridicule, or the lack of valid treatments, but also because the disease can be progressive, and hugely disabling.

    What could be more scary than finding yourself with an illness that could potentially mean you need to retreat to bed with flu-like symptoms, not just for a miserable week or two, but for decades?

    It’s time the media started to look critically at what press releases say, and to critically question the facts behind any statements made.

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    1. strattyrus Post author

      The media are abysmal when it comes to reporting anything ME-related but I felt their failure to respond critically to the remark suggesting working in the field of ME in the UK was more dangerous than working in Afghanistan reached a new low.

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  2. Ted Smith

    What’s going wrong – what has been going wrong since the launch of the “ME is really only CFS” concept – is that media has uncritically bought into the idea that treating ME as CFS (while hiding behind the merged name ME/CFS) is perfectly acceptable medical practice.
    Furthermore ‘chronic fatigue’ is now taken to be the DEFINITION of ME, because it is an easy-to-understand phrase, while the meaning of the words ‘myalgic encephalomyelitis’ is far less well known (and you are in a minority if you even know what M.E. stands for!)
    Would that just one journalist would have the balls to expose this. For one thing, it would be a scoop.
    For another, it currently looks as though all journalists are all slavishly following the party line – or rather the Dept of Health/NHS line. And in so doing they are all acting as though they are living under the former Soviet Union and that freedom of the press – at least when it comes to M.E. – doesn’t exist.

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    1. strattyrus Post author

      I agree up to a point Ted, the conflation of ME and CFS is annoying but media reporting of ME was poor before the term CFS was coined. I wanted to highlight the extent to which journalism has fallen; allowing outrageous comments regarding the person involved feeling safer in a warzone than in the UK, such is the threat he feels from people with ME, without any challenge. Instead, the statement is propagated by the media and a community of severely ill people finds itself under attack.

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      1. Ted Smith

        Conflation of the two terms is more than just annoying.

        It is no different in principal from saying ME/YuppyFlu or ME/FemaleHysteria – it has the same effect of giving the person using the double name an advantage in the argument. Every time someone writes or says ‘ME/CFS’ an uniformed reader or listener makes the obvious presumption the two things are the same. Otherwise why not just say ME?

        Getting ME patients themselves to refer to their illness as ‘ME/CFS” has been a great propaganda coup – for those who are unable to treat ME as ME. Note that Wessely himself says he treats ‘CFS’ and sometimes talks about ‘ME/CFS’ but he makes no claim to treat the neurogical illness myalgic encephalomyelitis – and he is therefore is to be avoided at all costs (literally) for this reason alone.

        The merged name ‘ME/CFS’ needs a warning label attached to it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. biophile.pr

    There have been absurd comparisons of ‘ME extremists’ to the Afghanistan warzone, Iraq warzone, offending Islamic militants with caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, going over Niagara falls in a barrel, etc, with claims of a dedicated police unit monitoring the situation (despite no arrests or convictions after 20 years?). Perhaps one factor for the lack of critical response is that much of this media coverage was orchestrated by the fellow travelers (or useful idiots), the Science Media Centre, in collaboration with others in their extensive network. No unverified conspiracy theory needed, the SMC have proudly announced that they organized and “engineered” the media coverage on intimidation and harassment of researchers: bit.ly/12mL0LD

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    1. strattyrus Post author

      Very true. I hadn’t heard about a dedicated police unit but it wouldn’t surprise me. If they behave as the police have done in similar situations, e.g. in their infiltration of certain environmental groups, we can no doubt look forward to their instigating threats themselves. It’s good you mention the SMC, I’ll be writing about their malign influence when it comes to ME coverage in the press in a future post. They proudly admit to orchestrating the media response and no one in the media thinks of challenging this, brilliant.

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  4. MsJustice

    There has been the occasional good article in the mainstream media. One by Sonia Poulton, in the Daily Mail of all places! Also, some by David Tuller writing for the New York Times. However, it’s not enough to drive any significantly larger government funded grants into biomedical research, into large studies and replication studies into biomarkers, that could be developed into diagnostic tests. This would need to go along with a better definition (a separation from the current CFS-with psychological connotations and deconditioning theories). It could go hand-in-hand with objective signs and tests that are already available ie ECG and tilt-table test, exercise and post-exercise testing (Snell) for those well enough, specific immune and viral screening.

    Until then, it’s difficult to get health professionals and the public, to acknowledge what having ME is like. I find telling them about the blood ban challenges their pre-conceptions. We need things to move on now and not accept the crumbs tossed off the table from government, nevermind the lies of the biopsychosocial model. Ramsay would be turning in his grave!

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  5. strattyrus Post author

    I’ve been impressed with David Tuller. I don’t expect the media to push for reseacrh funding, though it would be nice if they did, just to show some judgement and critical thinking when it comes to reporting on ME matters, rather than reporting something that’s patently bollocks because the person espousing such views is a ‘respectable’ member of the establishment.

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