Je suis gagged

Reprinted from Jan 09, 2015

Over the last few days all of us in the West have been horrified by the spectacle of Islamic fanatics blowing away 10 of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, including its editor, Stephane Charbonnier and his police bodyguard. It shocks us precisely because we believe that one of our most fundamental freedoms, the right to free speech, is presently under threat by the most militant of political extremists, and that preserving it is a matter of fighting religious fundamentalists. 

In the UK, the BBC runs a weekly show called Question Time, set up in a different part of the country every week, where guests representing the great and the good from politics and the media sit round a table and answer questions posed by members of the public in the audience.

This week, David Dimbleby hosted a diverse panel to deal with public questions about the shootings and what our response should be.

Bottled press
During the broadcast, the panel made a number of high-minded statements about the importance of ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’ with France to safeguard freedom of the press and tut-tutted about newspaper editors around the world ‘bottling it’ and being frightened to publish the offending cartoons after Wednesdays shootings.

All were disturbed that the BBC had a policy in place disallowing any images of depiction of the Prophet Mohammed that might offend Muslims. Our ‘hard fought’ freedom of speech is also about the right to criticize and satirize and show disrespect for’ things, said Labour Party Shadow Health minister Liz Kendall said.

‘If I were able to orchestrate one reaction to yesterday I would want every single editor of every paper in Europe and the rest of the world to carry their cartoons,’ remarked. Conservative former Home Secretary David Davis.

Jimmy Wales was quick to point out that Wikipedia, that bastion of free speech, had, in fact, run one of Charlie Hebdo’s earlier cartoons.

Business as usual
The point is, when it comes to the free dispersal of information, Wednesday’s attack is only a more savage version of what is already taking place here in the UK and in America, only this time the terrorists are all those societal structures meant to safeguard our right to free speech.

Let’s examine a few inconvenient truths, which represent just those examples of press suppression I have personal experience of, mainly relating to freedom to publish scientific data that puts modern medicine in a less than favorable light:

• In all of its literature to parents, the Department of Health does not publish one word of information about potential side effects or lack of efficacy of any vaccine, even though this material is freely available in other countries.

• In the US, the Centres for Disease Control, the major government body charged with studying vaccines, has consistently buried unfavorable data about the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and its link to autism by massaging the data.

• When a CDC scientist whistleblower blew the story about CDC burying this data – a scandal of Watergate proportions – recently, not one major paper in the UK and the US carried the story.

• Although we supplied every major newspaper in the UK with reams of scientific evidence about the dangers of the cervical cancer vaccine in 2012 (material already published in the US press) not one newspaper was brave enough to publish it, for fear of ‘offending’ the medical establishment or ‘frightening’ patients from trusting their doctors.

• Some years ago, I was invited to write a column for the Times. My first article was about the MMR and revealed secret documents I’d obtained from a whistleblower inside a CDC panel. The Times allowed the UK government to respond, but refused to allow me to right of reply. That was the moment I quit the column.

• The Times, London’s paper of record, refused to allow What Doctors Don’t Tell You to correct their 1 November 2013 article, even when it was filled with false information, and refused to publish any letters of support from our readers.

• Wikipedia, which appears to have distain for alternative medicine, allows any troll to stampede the pages of people like me to paint them in an unfavorable light. Any attempts to correct clear factual errors are quickly changed back to the originals.

• WH Smith, the so-called ‘champion’ of the small press, refuses to carry our magazine after a pharmaceutically supported organization orchestrated a phony staged campaign protesting it.

As broadcaster and columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer put it, ‘Freedom of speech and religion goes hand in hand with freedom to offend. We have the right to offend in this country. If we don’t stand up for that we will see our freedoms ebb away very quickly.’

But not, it seems, when it comes to an alternative view of health and medicine. In that case, Je suis Charlie.