Wandering through the open sewer called the internet, I got lost and found myself in the corner of the internet where toxic, putrescent solids and excrescences collect to share odours and bacteria and I found myself in the company of a deception of fact checkers. (A ‘deception’ is the collective term for fact checkers.)
One of the fact checkers I encountered (by accident rather than design) was someone called Dave Van Zandt, who edits a website called Media Bias Fact Check. Dave describes his site as ‘the most comprehensive media bias resource on the internet’. He has five volunteers to help him and admits that none of his team is a professional journalist. Dave says he ‘currently works full time in the health care industry’ though he doesn’t say whether he is a brain surgeon or a hospital car park attendant or a drug company sales representative.
This open letter is addressed to him.
How exciting it was to find your fact checking website. You are, I believe, the one millionth ‘independent’ fact checker now operating on the internet and I would like to congratulate you. From the style of your website I originally thought you were quite young. There is no photo but I’d guessed that you are probably no more than 16-years-old, maybe younger. How exciting it must be, I thought, for one so young to have so much power when your contemporaries are playing basketball or hacking into NASA. And then I see that you claim to have spent more than 20 years as an arm chair researcher. My word.
And what a thrill it must be, Dave, to be able to able to boast (as you do) that your website is used as a resource by BBC News, among many other media organisations.
It’s a pity you don’t explain precisely where your funding comes from (whose names are on the supporters’ cheques, for example) but I expect the money comes pouring in to the Van Zandt bank account these days. Running a fact checking business is, I’m told, the second quickest way to become a billionaire these days. (The quickest is to sell Personal Protective Equipment to the Government – but you really need to be related to a leading politician to go down that route to infinite wealth.)
And it’s a pity that you don’t tell your readers how many university science and medicine degrees you have tucked away in the bottom drawer of your bedside cabinet. (I’ve had a little bet with myself that you still live at home with Mum and Dad and that you run your global fact checking business from your bedroom. But I could be wrong. Maybe you run it out of the garage. Of course, it’s always possible that you have a huge building in the centre of New York.)
I’m sorry to hear that you don’t seem to have a medical degree because I’d have thought you would have felt shy about commenting on complex medical issues without one of those.
I wanted to write to you, Dave, to try to explain a couple of things to you; thoughts that perhaps slipped past you when you were at school.
Now, there are one or two small problems here, Dave.
The first is that everything in that video was carefully researched and is accurate. I note that you seem to have based your judgement on material on a site called Politifact which itself contains errors. They say I have a Facebook video. But I have never had a Facebook account. They say that in 2019 I authored a book aimed at discrediting trust in vaccines. That’s not true either. They report that there is no clear evidence that the coronavirus vaccines have killed or will kill anyone. I don’t think I’m the only doctor in the world to disagree with that. (Indeed, how can anyone write that a drug will never kill anyone? After decades of analysing drugs I just don’t understand how someone who can say that, and expect to be taken seriously, dares to denounce my work as FALSE. In particular, how do they know what will happen in the future?) And yet they describe my video’s claim as inaccurate and ridiculous. Really?
(By the way, another fact checker claims they wrote to me c/o the email address on my website. There is no email address on my website.)
You can’t just put the label FALSE on something because, well, you don’t agree with it, Dave. And even if other doctors disagree with the evidence I’ve provided that doesn’t mean they are right and I’m wrong. Did you bother to look to see how long I have been investigating drug company claims – and how many times I’ve been right? Even the British Government has acted on my warnings.
And the video title contains the word ‘could’ – implying that I am warning about a possibility. How can you rate that as FALSE?
But you will see, Dave, if you read the title of the video very carefully, that that the word ‘will’ appears in there. It is the eighth word if you count from the beginning.
Now, the thing about the word ‘will’, Dave, is that it suggests that something is going to happen in the future and that, I’m afraid, means that unless you have direct access to the future you really don’t know whether I am right or wrong and so you can’t say my prediction is FALSE. I’m pretty darned tooting sure that I’m right with my prediction, because I’ve looked at all the facts and I’ve got some nice letters after my name which say I’ve studied these things for many years, and you may well think that I’m wrong but you can’t possibly know for sure, Dave, unless you can see into the future in which case I would suggest that you abandon the fact checking business and go into the horse racing tipster business.
I don’t suppose the BBC News cares much about any of this but then did you know that the BBC has a financial relationship with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – and that the organisation has links with the vaccine industry?
To support your claims, Dave, you say that I am a conspiracy theorist and an AIDS denialist. Do you have any proof of the first? No, I thought not. And as for AIDS, I haven’t written about AIDS since 1988 in a book called, The Health Scandal which was published in the UK as a hardback and a paperback by very reputable publishers. And I simply quoted a good many scientific papers and pointed out the inaccuracies in establishment claims that AIDS was going to affect us all by the year 2000. (Who was right about that one, then, Dave?) Are you possibly referring to an article about me which appeared in a Bangkok newspaper and then got widely quoted? That was an odd thing. You forgot to mention, by the way, that for around 30 years I was one of the highest paid journalists in the UK and that I’ve written over 100 books which have sold millions of copies in 26 languages and in over 50 countries. I’m 76 years old now and pretty well retired from all that hustle and bustle but I still care passionately about providing people with the truth.
Oh, and one last thing, Dave, if you say critical things and you copy out comments and judgements from other people’s internet sites (even if they are big sites) it’s a good idea to check with the person you’re writing about beforehand. Anyway, you’ll be thrilled to know I’ve added you to my ever growing list of people to be sued. Oh, and the libel laws in England, where I’m based, are much tougher than the place where I’m guessing you are based and just saying ‘I copied it out in my best typing’ isn’t much of a defence over here, Dave.
Have you any idea how depressing it is to spend time doing real research and then spend time offering a professional analysis (all without any adverts or sponsorship), only to be attacked in such a way? Do you care? You’re not alone, of course. But that doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
So, it might be a good idea, Dave, to have a word with your Mum and Dad, or maybe the BBC, and ask if they’ll advance you $250,000 for your initial legal costs. Maybe your five volunteers will pull out their wallets and help you. Gosh, isn’t this all exciting. It’s going to be like being a real grown-up, Dave! It’ll be a while before the writ arrives but the anticipation is always half the fun, isn’t it? Meanwhile, you could always try limiting the damages by publishing a grovelling apology and a large correction. Just printing this letter on your website would be a start.
P.S. As I am sure you know, Dave, Friedrich Schiller was doubtless thinking of today’s unsightly rash of fact checkers when he said: ‘Truth lives on in the midst of deception’. I expect Schiller is one of your favourite figures in German literature. As I am sure you know he also said: ‘With stupidity the Gods themselves struggle in vain.’ Herr Schiller is dead by the way and so if you want to fact check him you can do so safely.