COVID: Claims of Africa Information Suppression?

The Claim

Anti-vax folks I know shared an article with me from The Daily Reckoning, written by James Rickards. In this article, Rickards claims:

One of the reasons the per capita rate of infection and fatality in Sub-Saharan Africa has been so much lower than was expected at the start of the pandemic is because Africans routinely take hydroxychloroquine to prevent malaria.

Hydroxychloroquine is cheap and safe and seems to have excellent prophylactic properties against the COVID virus. Likewise, the drug Ivermectin, which is also cheap and safe, has had fantastic results in helping to mitigate a severe outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus in India…

Why have you not heard more about the role of hydroxychloroquine in Africa? Why have you not heard more about the role of Ivermectin in India? Why are both drugs not being more widely utilized to fight COVID?…

The answer is that Big Tech and Big Media have banned any discussion…

Is this true? What does a basic investigation turn up?

Who is the Author?

Asking the classic questions never goes out of style: who? what? when? where? why? how? Answering these questions often provides almost magical results for winnowing real information from nonsense and disinformation.

Following the fundamentals of basic investigation, we can ask, who is the author of this piece?

“James G. Rickards is an American lawyer, economist, investment banker, speaker, media commentator, and author on matters of finance and precious metals.” (source) I have previously read a full length book from Rickards, a 300-page book on economics entitled Currency Wars.  He writes on alarmist topics and is a proponent of hard asset backed currencies (a somewhat minority/fringe viewpoint among economists).

Rickards is not a subject matter expert on the relevant science. Indeed, he is not a subject matter expert in any field of science or medicine. To be clear, that does not mean that he cannot have relevant and true things to say in this area, but it does mean that anything he has to say will depend critically upon his source material

What are the Author’s Sources?

As mentioned, the fundamental questions (who, what, etc.) contain something like magical properties. Because Rickards is not a subject matter expert, serious readers should definitely ask what are the author’s information sources?

The answer: Rickards does not cite a single source for any of his statements or his statistics in this article. Not one. So, who were his sources? That is a very good question. And because he does not tell us, it becomes an even better question. What this means is that the author is asking the reader to take his claims/assertions on faith.

For example, I want to look at the source he has regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine in sub-Saharan Africa. There are a lot of articles and papers on this subject. I’d like to see the one he is referring to. I’d like to see if he read and represented it well. I cannot do that, because he doesn’t give any hint of whose work he is alluding to.

Is There an Information Coverup?

I looked into this previously, during the heyday of Hydroxychloroquine buzz. Africa presents an interesting puzzle that is, and that has been, actively examined by researchers. Africa has a lower life expectancy, and hence they have fewer old people. This provides fewer fatality victims for COVID. Africa’s culture in many places tends to be more outdoor and less indoor-oriented than other regions. The causal factors are many, and much of the data is questionable – non-Western countries often leave much to be desired in terms of documentation and process. I have looked at both news articles (secondary sources) and journal publications (primary sources). This subject area is complicated and difficult, and anyone claiming to have a final answer is selling something. Or preaching a sermon. Examples: 1234.

Far from there being a cover up or suppression, this is being actively debated, out in the open, for anybody to read that cares to. Take a look at Google Scholar whenever you hear someone say that there is suppression going on, and find out if they are right. This article from January 2021 essentially states the entire puzzle right in the title.

Conclusion

The fundamental questions — who? what? when? where? why? how? — can be tremendous aids in separating good articles from the bad. Basic fact checks require little more than Google. The academic literature can be examined using a slight refinement: Google Scholar. Serious readers hold their favored authors accountable. Serious writers do not ask their subscribers to take their claims on faith.

Judged by these basic tenets, the Rickards article is of low quality. It makes many specific assertions and includes no references, either implicit or as citations. It asks the reader to takes these claims “on faith”, and thus qualifies more as a sermon than an informational piece. It preaches to people who already want to believe its claims.

Basic searching of news outlets and the academic literature both indicate that conversations about Africa are happening out in the open, not being covered up. The actual situation appears to be complex and unresolved. Disinformation sources like that of Rickards push “simple and settled” type messages, heavily embedded with conspiracy theories. We humans prefer things to be simple and settled, but reality generally has little interest in our preferences.

Comments

  1. Dear Matt,

    I would like to commend you on publishing another excellet post. And I would like to add that fact-checking can be a great deal more involved and complicated as discussed extensively in my post entitled “💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠“. In particular, there are two detailed sections of the post that analyze and highlight the salient issues and solutions regarding fact-checking:

    Fact-Checking: An Emerging Market Fraught with Issues

    Authentication: Quotation and Information Checklist

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    Like

    • Simplistic version here is deliberate, targeted toward a specific cross-section of misled folks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Matt,

        Yes, I admire your effort in achieving your objective. Yet, the “specific cross-section of misled folks” really need much more, as misinformation comes in so many forms, and the issues involved and discussed in my said post concern not just misinformation per se but also cognitive and behavioural flaws as well as sociocultural and sociopolitical issues plus the information landscape, social media, communications technologies and so on.

        In any case, your post is so well done that it has warranted a good response from me. 🙂

        Yours sincerely,
        SoundEagle

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

Where The Eagles Fly . . . . Art Science Poetry Music & Ideas

Michael Seidel, writer

Science fiction, fantasy, mystery and what-not

cas d'intérêt

Reflections of a Francophile

Two Wheels Across Texas

My Quest to ride through all 254 Texas Counties

She Seeks Nonfiction

Be curious. Be skeptical. Be humble.

Uncommon Sense

I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we lost.

%d bloggers like this: