Be skeptical of ivermectin stories

Another too-perfect-to-be-true media narrative collapses.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll keep shouting into the void even though I know it won’t make the slightest difference: if a viral news story perfectly confirms all of your pre-existing beliefs and makes your outgroup of choice look evil and/or stupid, you should be even more skeptical about it than usual.

You’ve probably come across Rolling Stone’s story about Oklahoma hospitals being so overwhelmed by MAGA horse-paste enthusiasts that gunshot victims have remained untreated. Here in Canada this is the kind of story that could have been created in a laboratory to perfectly match up with all of our stereotypes about Americans. Or blue-staters’ stereotypes about red-staters, and so on.

Yeah, it’s bullshit:

Rolling Stone has come under fire for sharing a dubious story about rural hospitals in Oklahoma being overwhelmed by those taking the veterinary medicine ivermectin to treat Covid-19 – an unproven treatment.

The original story appeared last week in NBC’s Oklahoma City affiliate KFOR and quoted a doctor affiliated with a rural hospital system who made the claim about the hospitals being overwhelmed with patients who took ivermectin to treat Covid-19.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” Jason McElyea told the outlet.

Rolling Stone ran with that specific angle and shared their story on their Twitter page in a Sept. 3 post that has yet to be deleted.

[…]

In a statement, the hospital system – the Northeastern Hospital System – said:

Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room.

With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months.
NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose.

All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care.

We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community’s support.

In addition to Rolling StoneInsiderNewsweekThe Guardian and The New York Daily News reported the KFOR story, which has yet to be updated with the statement from the hospital system. Along with Rolling Stone, Insider and The Guardian have included the statement, while Newsweek and The New York Daily News have not.

It would be bad enough if this was the only ivermectin-related news story that turned out to be false. But it wasn’t:

In an article published Aug. 23, 2021, about people taking livestock medicine to try to treat coronavirus, The Associated Press erroneously reported based on information provided by the Mississippi Department of Health that 70% of recent calls to the Mississippi Poison Control Center were from people who had ingested ivermectin to try to treat COVID-19. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Wednesday the number of calls to poison control about ivermectin was about 2%. He said of the calls that were about ivermectin, 70% were by people who had ingested the veterinary version of the medicine.

I remember reading about that in late August. The AP correction is from August 25. I didn’t even know about it until it gained some traction on Twitter this past weekend.

To be fair, the Mississippi Department of Health’s press release about the issue is a bit confusing:

At first glance, I’d probably interpret this as 70% of all calls to the poison control center being about ivermectin exposure. That’s what the AP and other media outlets did. You have to read a little more carefully to see that it’s only 70% of the calls about ivermectin in particular.

But that hasn’t stopped some outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, from running with the “70% of all calls” statistic even after the Associated Press issued its correction.

Now, does this mean we should adopt the J.D. Vance approach and disregard everything reported by mainstream media? Of course not.

But it yet another reminder that mainstream outlets, for all of their self-serving rhetoric about impartiality and fighting disinformation, have their own biases and blind spots. I wouldn’t call it nefarious, just human nature.

There are way too many people who think ivermectin will cure COVID-19, but there aren’t nearly as many of these people as the media thinks there are.


Keep an eye on Brazil today, and whether it’s still a democracy by suppertime:

Global signatories to an open letter warn that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is preparing to unleash a military coup to retain power, modelled on Donald Trump supporters’ insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2020.

More than 150 former presidents, prime ministers and leading public figures on the left say the rallies Tuesday staged by Bolsonaro supporters against the country’s supreme court and Congress are “stoking fears of a coup in the world’s third largest democracy”.

Bolsonaro supporters include white supremacist groups, military police, and public officials at every level of government, says the group, which includes Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, Jeremy Corbyn, the former UK Labour leader, Fernando Lugo, the former Paraguayan president, Caroline Lucas, the British Green MP, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the Argentine Nobel laureate and human rights activist.

Jeremy Corbyn thinks it’s possible Bolsonaro might be planning a coup. Nevertheless, I think it’s possible Bolsonaro might be planning a coup.

“Members of Congress in Brazil have warned that the 7 September mobilization has been modelled on the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, when then-president Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to ‘stop the steal’ with false claims of electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential elections.”

Brazil prepared on Monday for Independence Day demonstrations by supporters of far-right Bolsonaro, who has called for a show of support for his attacks on the country’s Supreme Court that are rattling Latin America’s largest democracy.

Security was reinforced in the capital Brasilia and police started blocking access to the central mall where thousands are expected to march on Tuesday, supporting Bolsonaro in his clash with the judiciary over changes to Brazil’s voting system.

[…]

The court has authorized investigations of Bolsonaro allies for allegedly attacking Brazil’s democratic institutions with misinformation online. He has called the court-ordered probes a violation of free speech rights.

Congress and the courts also resisted Bolsonaro’s attempt to introduce paper voting receipts as a backup of an electronic voting system, which he argues is vulnerable to fraud. The electoral court maintains the system is transparent and safe.

Bolsonaro’s critics say he is sowing doubts so he can challenge the results of next year’s election, which opinion polls now show him losing to former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva. Neither has confirmed their candidacies.

Bolsonaro sees Sept. 7 — Brazil’s Independence Day — as an opportunity to rally his base and demonstrate that he retains the backing of large numbers of voters, according to four people who have access to the president and his sons. It’s a chance to show that he’s not alone in tackling the country’s greatest challenges, the people said.

Hey, it’s not like Bolsonaro has a history of saying he’d ever support a military coup or [record scratch]

In a television interview two decades ago, the fringe congressman didn’t hesitate to say it: If he were president, he would shut down the Brazilian congress and stage a military takeover.

“There’s not even the littlest doubt,” Jair Bolsonaro said. “I’d stage a coup the same day [I became president,] the same day. Congress doesn’t work. I’m sure at least 90 percent of people would party and clap.”

When people tell you who they are, believe them.


Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard singing: the real reason the Taliban banned music.