Samar Razaq is GP in Burnham
A lie is halfway around the world before the truth has put its boots on
This quote, in its various versions, has been attributed to Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and the author of Gulliver’s travel, Jonathan Swift. Other versions have the truth still trying to put its shoes on or pulling its pants up whilst the lie has pretty much travelled half way around the world. It is remarkable that this quote is likely to have originated from a time when the means of communication were only capable of catapulting a falsehood at a fraction of speed of what is possible in today’s world. If Twain, Churchill or Swift were around in the present time, perhaps they would have found the truth still contemplating the act of getting out of bed.
Medical opinion has always encouraged healthy debate. Whilst disagreements have always been present, they have usually been debated in medical journals and amongst professionals capable of understanding the complexities of the arguments being made. Recently, however,
disagreements have been multitudinous and at times spiteful…
particularly in the context of the pandemic, the debates have spilled increasingly into the public sphere where the disagreements have been multitudinous and at times spiteful. This is understandable where emotive topics such as mandatory vaccination, vaccination of children and mortality of the virus are being discussed. The public divide on how best to manage the pandemic almost mirrors the political divide between the left and right. This was particularly noticeable during the latter part of Donald Trump’s presidency and may have affected the early efforts to combat the virus in the United States.1
Twitter has become one of the battlefields where these opinions are increasingly shared. A medical opinion on Twitter is halfway around the world while its medical journal counterpart is still putting its boots on. Considered critiques of medical opinion cannot match the instant gratification and retweets of thousands of followers who follow the account precisely because the views expressed are in concordance with their own. Individuals seek out medical opinions which reinforce their view on how best to manage the pandemic and give these viewpoints prominence by repeated tagging and retweeting. Whether the perspective has been appropriately scrutinised or not is of little importance in this amphitheatre of maximum hits and views. These conflicting views are then used to further polarise the masses which surely has a negative impact on the management of the pandemic. Is it appropriate for unscrutinised medical opinion to be posted on such formats by doctors? I have seen many cases where doctors themselves are the ones posting dubious medical opinion which is made difficult to comprehensively rebut due to the restrictive nature of Twitter and the risk of drawing the unnecessary ire of the hard-core followers.
We seem to live in times where there is little respect for the others opinion.
We seem to live in times where there is little respect for the others opinion. Careless use of language such as “expect a tsunami of infections” or “Omicron is just like a cold” seems deliberately designed to infuriate the other side. The more entrenched the opinions become, the less likely one is to listen to the other. Perhaps some wisdom can be gained from the words of medieval scholar Abū ʿAbdillāh Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī ( 767-820) who said, “My opinion is right with the possibility that it is wrong and the opinion of those who disagree with me is wrong with the possibility that it is right.”2 Maybe this approach offers some healing to both sides as we cautiously emerge from the worst of the pandemic, battered and bruised but not broken.
- Jungkuntz S.Political Polarization During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Front. Polit. Sci., 04 March 2021, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpos.2021.622512
- Abū ʿAbdillāh Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī ( 767-820). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUxc-g4rP4g accessed 12/2/22