This brief article by Emily Willingham in Forbes shows how the internet has been a real blessing to conspiracy theorists – especially those who are attacking scientific consensus. In Hyping Your Conspiracy Theory In 5 Easy Steps. She is using the anti-vaccination movement as an example. But it is just as applicable to the anti-fluoride movement.
“1. Find something online that is related to your subject. Like this Senate committee report on an investigation of government agencies regarding safety claims of thimerosal in vaccines.”
And there is no short of internet material on fluoride – Activists just have to do a bit of googling If you are too lazy for that others have done it for you. Just go to Fluoride Alert, Mercola and hosts af “natural” health web sites).
“2. Cherry-pick partial quotes that seem to support your position (here, that vaccines cause harm) and assert conclusions that support your claims. Be sure the conclusions are sufficiently scary and conspiracy worthy. Mention of children and/or pregnant women is always good.”
Again, other activists sites have done that for you. Most anti-fluoride activists may have never read any of the scientific papers they “quote.” At most they seem only to have glanced at an abstract.
“3. Ignore the full context that specifically presents the reverse conclusion from the one you want to claim. Full context like this, from the actual Senate committee report (italics mine):”
This is rife in the anti-fluoride community. Take this paper they are currently quoting as “evidence” that fluoridation is not effective:
Majorana et al. BMC Pediatrics 2014. “Feeding and smoking habits as cumulative risk factors for early childhood caries in toddlers, after adjustment for several behavioral determinants: a retrospective study.” BMC Pediatrics
The study did not even consider fluoridation and their notes on the apparent ineffectiveness of prenatal fluoride supplementation using fluoride drops have been misrepresented. (See this outline by Andrew Sparrow for further details).
Be very wary when the word “Havard” is used – misleading information coming up! For example - claims like Harvard study shows “exposing youngsters to fluoride could lead to brain damage and reduced IQ.” Or a Havard paper “looked at 27 studies on children exposed to fluoride in drinking water in China, which on average resulted in a loss of seven IQ points.”
“5. Periodically resurrect dead debates that you lost, shined up to look new and scary for a new cohort of anxious folk and make claims of a coverup, despite the fact that the allegations you’re resurrecting have been addressed and debunked again and again.”
Boy does that happen on the fluoride issue. Sceptics call these stories “rubber ducks” It doesn’t matter haw often these fallacious claims get knocked over they continue to resurface – very often used by the same people.
So much for integrity.