Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Do we want to live in a world in which medical journals are afraid to publish certain conclusions?
I recently described an organized campaign against a medical journal that published research over the objections of anti-meat activists. After the Annals of Internal Medicine refused to halt publication, the US Federal Trade Commission was urged to intervene. So was the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
Do we really want to live in a world in which medical journals are afraid to publish certain conclusions because activists will sic the authorities on them? Does it really need to be said that, once government officials and the courts start second-guessing medical journals, free speech and honest scholarship are as good as dead?
So who, precisely, tried to get this research retracted before it saw the light of day? Who arrogantly wanted to extinguish the public’s right to hear that the evidence linking meat consumption and poor health is quite weak?
A lot of people who should know better. People associated with prestigious institutions.
Let’s start with David L. Katz, of Yale University. In a bizarre newspaper column Katz implies the journal is guilty of “information terrorism.” In his universe, this isn’t a matter of different researchers examining the same evidence and coming to different conclusions. It’s a matter of anyone-who-disagrees-with-me-has-nefarious-motives. It’s how-dare-you-challenge-the-prevailing-consensus!
Katz is the founder/director of the True Health Initiative. That organization describes itself as a “voice of reason and consensus.” It claims to be “fighting fake facts” and “combating false doubts” via an “evidence-based” approach. Shutting down competing perspectives is not the voice of reason. It’s the voice of authoritarianism.
Neal Barnard, of George Washington University’s School of Medicine, heads the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It was his organization that appealed to the Trade Commission and then to the district attorney.
Other signatories to the letter urging the journal to halt publication include Frank Hu, JoAnn E. Manson, Eric Rimm, Meir Stampfer, and Walter Willett. All of these people are associated with Harvard’s School of Public Health. That entity has a party line where meat is concerned. It’s difficult to imagine a researcher with an alternative perspective surviving there long. I wrote about Willett’s vegetarian climate change activism last year.
These are the other individuals who took the highly unusual step of trying to influence the editorial decisions of a respected medical journal:
Dariush Mozaffarian – a Dean at Tufts University
Richard Carmona of the University of Arizona
Christopher Gardner of Stanford University
Dean Ornish of the University of California
Kim A. Williams of Rush University