Tips for Identifying Disinformation – Part III

In this part of the series on identifying disinformation, we will look at clues from what purveyors of disinformation say that should raise red flags.

If you are new to the blog or you did not read parts I and II, I just want to reiterate some important points. My intention in writing this blog series on disinformation is not to strong arm anyone into getting vaccinated if they are not yet vaccinated and don’t want to be. What I hope to accomplish is that if you don’t want to be vaccinated, at least do not make that decision based on lies and untruths. To make good choices, one has to understand the options and the pros and cons of those options. What I object to is those who spread disinformation tricking people into not getting vaccinated by deceiving them. If you have the correct information and decide that the vaccine is not right for you under your particular circumstances, then I can respect that.

This series provides the reader with clues to help discern when they may be getting disinformation. While there are quite a number of foreign nations, organizations and individuals spreading disinformation, I am using a local Idaho doctor as my example because he uses almost every one of these techniques and is very skilled at it. So, let’s look at some examples. All of these are references to or quotes from Dr. Ryan Cole from interviews or videos of his talks. Also, I am going to try to point out how common sense can indicate that what he is saying is not likely true rather than trying to argue his points by referencing clinical studies that many of my readers may not be able to easily evaluate for themselves.

  1. The use of overly dramatic or inflammatory language

Most true experts and scientists will try to remain objective when they explain science to the public. Contrast this with some of the overly dramatic and inflammatory language used by Dr. Cole:

Dr. Cole commonly calls the COVID vaccines the “fake” vaccine, “needle rape”, or the “clot shot.” I have called Dr. Cole out on this, but he defends himself by saying that this is what others have called the vaccines. Okay, maybe if you say this once, you might be able to attribute this to others; but when you say this in multiple settings on multiple occasions, you now have to own it. No legitimate public health expert or scientist to would result to what is essentially the equivalent of name-calling. Notice that these names are intended inflame your emotions, rather than inform your mind. Legitimate scientists don’t do this.

So, let’s think about this first example of the COVID vaccines being “fake” vaccines for a minute just from a common-sense point of view. Below, I will point out that another warning sign is that the arguments of disinformation promoters lack internal consistency. Let’s consider Dr. Cole’s statement that these are “fake” vaccines. There are only two possible meanings I can conclude from Dr. Cole calling the COVID vaccines “fake” vaccines – (1) that they are not really vaccines and/or (2) they don’t work. If he means the first, then he has an internal consistency problem. In one of his videos, he rails against organizations who have implemented vaccine mandates. The answer is for the legislature to prohibit such mandates. However, if the COVID vaccines are not vaccines, then obviously a prohibition against vaccine mandates would not prohibit employers from requiring COVID vaccinations.

But, let’s suppose that since the first possible explanation really doesn’t make any sense, that it is not what Dr. Cole meant. Let’s consider the alternative, that he is implying that the vaccines simply don’t work. I could certainly provide you with ample scientific evidence that they do, but consistent with my commitment above to only apply common sense given that not everyone will be able to read and understand all these clinical studies, let’s think about this for a minute. So, if the vaccines don’t work, then your chances of getting infected, getting severely ill and being hospitalized should be the same whether vaccinated or not. So, let’s consider Idaho. Of Idahoans over the age of 18, 69.6% have been fully vaccinated. Let’s call it 70% just to make things simpler. Okay. If the vaccine does not work, then in a large population of people such as Idahoans over the age of 18, we should expect to see as many infections, hospitalizations, patients in critical care and deaths from COVID among those vaccinated (i.e., 70%) as those unvaccinated (30%) if the vaccines really are “fake” and don’t do anything to protect you.

Now, let’s look at the numbers made public by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare for the period of time from May 15 – October 9, 2021. What about infections? Remember, if the vaccines are “fake” then the numbers should be roughly 70% vaccinated and 30% unvaccinated. The real numbers for infections – 12% vaccinated and 88% unvaccinated. Well, what about hospitalizations? 10% vaccinated and 90% unvaccinated. What about the most seriously ill requiring critical care? 8% vaccinated and 92% unvaccinated. And, lastly, what about deaths? 13% vaccinated and 87% unvaccinated. I think everyone can see that Dr. Cole’s characterization of the vaccines as “fake” at minimum doesn’t make any sense, but at worst it is just an outright lie and intention to deceive. Again, if you chose not to get vaccinated, that is your business, but I just don’t want you to make that decision based on Dr. Cole convincing you that the vaccines are “fake.”

What about “needle rape?” To me, this is one of the most outrageous, offensive and unprofessional statements Dr. Cole has made. This language must be intended to inflame the passions of the audiences he talks to, but this again is not the language a reputable physician or scientist will use. First of all, it is beyond the pale to compare vaccination to one of the most psychologically traumatizing and dehumanizing assaults and acts of violence that a person can endure. To equate the two is to minimize and trivialize the physical and emotional trauma suffered by victims of sexual assault, which is utterly despicable. To hear this false equivalence made by a doctor is all the more shocking and reprehensible. When you hear language like this from a source, you should be loath to give credibility to his other statements or at least carefully scrutinize his other claims.

What about the reference to “clot shot?” This appears to be a reference to Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS). It is quick and easy to check out the CDC website to see how often “clots” are with the various COVID vaccines. The first thing you will note is that this adverse effect is rare. This reveals Dr. Cole’s bias against the vaccines that he refers to them as “clot shots,” when looking at the numbers, just as we did above, quickly demonstrates that this is not a fair characterization. For the J&J vaccine, there are 47 confirmed reports out of 15.3 million doses administered. For the Moderna vaccine, there have been two reported cases out of 394 million doses. So, are blood clots a risk that a reasonable person might consider in deciding whether to get vaccinated with the J&J vaccine? Certainly. However, what Dr. Cole does not tell you is that the risk for blood clots is orders of magnitude higher with COVID infection.

  • In one of his videos, Dr. Cole refers to the COVID vaccines as “a poisonous attack on our population and it needs to stop – now.” Again, we see his use of pejorative language that is meant to conjure up fear rather than taking the scientific approach of explaining the pros and cons to help people make an educated decision.
  • You will also hear Dr. Cole make outrageous veiled references to Nazi Germany when he alleges that hospitals that require COVID vaccination are violating the Nuremberg Code. The Nuremberg Code is a set of research ethics principles developed in response to human experimentation that was dangerous and conducted by German physicians on human subjects without their consent and often related to efforts at “racial hygiene.” Again, like his comparison of being vaccinated to being raped, this comparison to the Nazi treatment of Jews is outrageous, inflammatory and despicable. Further, he demonstrates a complete lack of understanding in seeming to suggest the Nuremberg Code is a law that applies to private institutions in the United States, which it does not.
  • In a similar vein, you will hear Dr. Cole make many references to crimes against humanity related to the COVID vaccines. Again, these statements are exaggerations intended to inflame the heart rather than inform the mind. Crimes against humanity include such things as genocide, war crimes, massacres, ethnic cleansing, and terrorism. Again, a reputable physician or scientist will stick to facts and be objective, rather than resorting to inflammatory, exaggerated and offensive references. We should be able to sit down and have a rational discussion about the pros and cons of a vaccine mandate. I don’t have a public position on these and I would be willing to listen to arguments for or against, but I will not engage in a dialogue with someone who uses this kind of shocking, inflammatory and inflammatory language.

We should be able to have rational discussions of the pros and cons of any treatment, medication or vaccine. Be warned that when doctors or others try to veer away from rational discussions and a balanced presentation of the risks and benefits, they are generally trying to influence you by emotions rather than facts.

We have only just scratched the surface and covered one of the tactics that should serve as a red flag that those promoting disinformation may use. In part IV of this blog series, we will cover additional red flags.

6 thoughts on “Tips for Identifying Disinformation – Part III

  1. Thank you Dr. Pate for your thoughtful, logical, honest, and considerate communication about disinformation, how to recognize it, and the harmful impact of disinformation as we face this public health crisis. I trust your knowledge, thoroughness, and objectivity as an informed medical professional who has been successful in caring for patients and leading others in providing the very best patient care to thousands of patients.

    I also appreciate your courage in countering disinformation and insisting that people make decisions that can save or cost them their lives based on truth, facts, and best medical practices driving by rigorous biomedical science, and not rely upon innuendo, disinformation and outright untruths. It is so hard for me to understand why anyone, especially a medical doctor of any specialization, would spread such false information. Is it for perceived political gain, comradery among like misinformed persons, or perhaps mental disorder, such as narcissistic, paranoid or sociopathic personality disorder, including comorbidity.

    I suppose it could also be other ulterior motives or self-serving agendas. For example I saw posts by a chiropractic doctor (also not qualified in infectious disease or immunology) who was promoting his book on wellness, diet and exercise as a preferred and recommended alternative to vaccinations for COVID-19, essentially trading people’s lives for revenue from his book. To me this kind of behavior is terribly irresponsible and reprehensible. Similarly, I find the behavior of politicians who are trying to discourage or prevent vaccination initiatives for their perceived political gain, likewise trading people’s lives for the expectation of votes.

    These are troubling times, with a global pandemic seemingly bringing out the worst in some actors. Fortunately, we have so many wonder healthcare and public health professionals working tirelessly and professionally to protect us and get us through this pandemic. I am so thankful, yet concerned about burnout among those who truly and honestly care and are doing all they can based on medical science, evidence-based prevention and treatment, and professional practice. We all can be thankful for their professionalism, compassion, and endurance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much for this comment, Bill. I agree with your sentiments and I, too, also cannot imagine what motivation would be sufficient for doctors and others to knowingly hurt people. I don’t get it and for that I am grateful.


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