Mob rule on the Web said to harm debate

Andre Picard, who is perhaps Canada’s top medical journalist, is fed up
with the impact of instant online commentary on scientific debate. “On
the Web, it is mob rule,” writes Picard, quoting author Anatole France:
‘If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.’
” Excerpts of Picard’s uncharacteristically-irate piece in the Globe and Mail:

Prior to the Internet and e-mail – a
time not long ago, remarkably – people were sometimes moved to write
letters in response to an article. These missives were infrequent, but
usually thoughtful and thought-provoking. Today, quality has largely
given way to quantity.

…. Constructive criticism
keeps you honest and forces you to be more precise and hone your
arguments. Sadly, though, there no longer seems to be much place for
civilized disagreement, honest scientific-based dissension, on
differing analyses of agreed-upon facts. Instead of deconstructing an
argument or offering up an alternative philosophy, rebuttals too often
take the form of insult and character assassination.

What is truly troubling is that the
most common “debating” technique in cyberspace has become the dismissal
of anyone with respect for scientific fact and reasoned opinion as part
of some vast conspiracy. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacologists,
biochemists, immunologists, geneticists and journalists are not to be
trusted. They are all on the take. Medical journals that publish
peer-reviews research: They are nothing but promotional tools for Big
Pharma and researchers are their puppets and profiteers.

So who do you trust?

Good question. Perhaps some of the conspiracy cranks who weigh in, even here, might like to answer that one.