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8 Reasons To Keep An Open Mind And Think For Yourself

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“When all think alike, no one thinks very much.” – Walter Lippmann, 2 times Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist

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Free-thinkers will all struggle at times to comprehend why mainstream viewpoints can remain unquestioned by those around them. Why people will aggressively push the dominant viewpoint even when it’s outdated, unhelpful, or even blatantly contradicted by evidence. Why these viewpoints leave no room for others to hold differing ones, and complete conformity is often the end goal, even though free-thinkers advocate individual freedom and choice.

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How can free-thinkers comprehend the static viewpoints many hold about the important issues that affect our lives? Issues that free-thinkers see as demanding continuous, rigorous debate and evaluation, and an openness to adaptation and change. Issues regarding lifestyles, food, the environment, animal welfare, nutrition, health, war, peace, human diversity, all manner of social systems, parenting, governments, politics, education, science, religion and spirituality.

Groupthink

I have found one of the most powerful influences in life is social system regulation and stability. When one person disagrees with us we can shrug it off, but when several people disagree with us the effect is very powerful, our ability to reality-test is being compromised. For asking as little as an open question or sharing an alternative viewpoint, others may automatically experience our actions as offensive, and we can be ostracised to the out-group of our society.

In 1972 social psychologist Irving Janis coined “groupthink,” a term that describes this phenomenon. The Psychologists for Social Responsibility summarise groupthink thusly:

“…[Groupthink] occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of ‘mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.’ (Janis, 1972, p.9) Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.

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When pressures for unanimity seem overwhelming, members are less motivated to realistically appraise the alternative courses of action available to them. These group pressures lead to carelessness and irrational thinking since groups experiencing groupthink fail to consider all alternatives and seek to maintain unanimity. Decisions shaped by groupthink have low probability of achieving successful outcomes.”

8 Symptoms of Groupthink

(Janis, 1982, adapted from The Psychologists for Social Responsibility)

  1. Illusion of invulnerability – Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks. Ignoring group and individual member vulnerabilities leads to incomplete and skewed risk assessments.
  2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions. Everything can be, and is explained away.
  3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary. Ad hominem attacks are a sign of this.
  5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views. Alternative viewpoints are automatically experienced as offensive and controversial.
  6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous. Silence is taken as consensus.
  8. Self-appointed “mindguards” – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions. Organizations, astroturfers, and propogandists perform these roles.

Why Groupthink Has Gone Global

I believe numerous factors have contributed to the current dominance of groupthink. We live in increasingly competitive societies. Admitting to confusion or error exposes our vulnerability, and being vulnerable when we are surrounded by others seeking to one-up us in the hierarchy is often dangerous. We learn to fear our vulnerability and do whatever it takes to avoid it,  including seeking the safety of the group by complying with their dominant viewpoints, thereby avoiding the accountability of making errors.

We have social systems (parenting, education, work, law) which teach us that obedience, conformity, and fear of authority are valued over advanced ethical and moral reasoning, over free, critical, and creative thought. We are increasingly a global collective pulled from such differing lives, perhaps coaxing us into premature aggreeableness on many issues, just to feel some sense of connection, belonging, and safety. Finally, all manner of organizations and individuals have found their interests can be well served by fostering and harnessing the mechanisms of groupthink.

Overcoming Groupthink

So how can free thinkers exist in an age of global groupthink? The biggest lesson I am learning is to not fall victim to groupthink ourselves. All viewpoints can create groupthink if information sources and groups are too insular. To be comfortable evaluating the full spread of information requires that we are in touch with our human capacity for vulnerability.

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Vulnerability allows us to be accepting of the fact that trial and error and continuous revision and update are part of the process of authentic learning and quality decision-making. It’s knowing that we may be wrong and confused many times as we work it through, and that’s okay. Vulnerability allows us to harness the confusion conflicting information may cause in us to drive further learning, to go there, rather than being consumed by frustration, fear, and shame.

On communicating alternative viewpoints when I can feel I am being pressured into self-censorship by groupthink, I am finding it best not to use groupthink tactics myself. I try to present information as neutrally as possible, to source quality (groupthink-free) information, and to let arguments stand on their own merits rather than on manipulative, emotionally charged rhetoric. Overall, I try to be respectful of the vulnerability of other humans and their right to draw their own conclusions. In my own experience, fostering a sense of comfortability with vulnerability acts as a strong antidote to groupthink.


What are your thoughts about a concept like groupthink in the modern age? Are there other theories that explain this phenomenon well? Are there any methods that you have found useful to remain an active free-thinker and foster free-thought in your social group? I’d love to hear your views. Please comment below.


 

References
Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Janis, Irving L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Second Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

If interested you can read more about Irving Janis and groupthink theory here. http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

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Vancouver Council Votes Against Mandatory Mask Mandate: They’re Not Required

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Vancouver, Canada will not have a required mask policy in civic facilities, and instead will simply recommend that people wear them.

  • Reflect On:

    Should governments recommend what they feel we should do and present the science instead of forcing certain measures on the population that many people and health professionals clearly disagree with?

What Happened: The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada will not mandate masks inside city buildings and will “strongly encourage” people to wear them instead. This is a bold move as many cities across the globe have mandatory mask measures in place.

The proposal by Counc. Sarah Kirby-Yung, which would have required masks inside city buildings, was opposed by more than a dozen speakers who pleaded with the city council to vote against it.

“Please consider our forefathers fought for our freedom, and if we release that choice, it’s the first step towards a dictatorship,” said one speaker according to City News. “Masks are used as weapons and they have certainly been used as weapons against me and others to silence and marginalize us and it’s not fair.”

According to Coun. Christine Boyle, public health experts encourage wearing masks, but a mandatory policy is not needed.

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Positive Association Found Amongst COVID Deaths & Flu Shot Rates Worldwide In Elderly

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A recently published paper has found a positive association between COVID-19 deaths and influenza vaccination rates in elderly people worldwide.

  • Reflect On:

    Why does vaccine hesitancy continue to grow worldwide? What's going on? What information/factors are contributing to this hesitancy?

What Happened: A recently published study in PeerJ  by Christian Wehenkel, a Professor at Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango in Mexico, has found a positive association between COVID-19 deaths and influenza vaccination rates in elderly people worldwide.

According to the study, “The results showed a positive association between COVID-19 deaths and IVR (influenza vaccination rate) of people ≥65 years-old. There is a significant increase in COVID-19 deaths from eastern to western regions in the world. Further exploration is needed to explain these findings, and additional work on this line of research may lead to prevention of deaths associated with COVID-19.”

To determine this association, data sets from 39 countries with more than half a million people were analyzed.

The study was published on October 1st, and two weeks later a note from the publisher appeared atop the paper emphasizing that correlation does not equal causation, and that this paper “should not be taken to suggest that receiving the influenza vaccination results in an increased risk of death for an individual with COVID-19 as there may be confounding factors at play.”

The paper provides evidence from others which have recently been published that ponder if the flu shot could increase ones chance of contracting and dying from COVID-19.

For example, this study published in April of 2020, reported a negative correlation between influenza vaccination rates (IVRs) and COVID-19 related mortality and morbidity. Marín-Hernández, Schwartz & Nixon (2020) also showed epidemiological evidence of an association between higher influenza vaccine uptake by elderly people and lower percentage of COVID-19 deaths in Italy, which directly contradicts the author’s own findings and suggests that the flu shot may help prevent COVID-19 related deaths.

He goes on to mention another study:

In a study analyzing 92,664 clinically and molecularly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazil, Fink et al. (2020) reported that patients who received a recent flu vaccine experienced on average 17% lower odds of death. Moreover, Pawlowski et al. (2020) analyzed the immunization records of 137,037 individuals who tested positive in a SARS-CoV-2 PCR. They found that polio, Hemophilus influenzae type-B, measles-mumps-rubella, varicella, pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13), geriatric flu, and hepatitis A/hepatitis B (HepA-HepB) vaccines, which had been administered in the past 1, 2, and 5 years, were associated with decreased SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.

So, its important to mention that correlations between the flu vaccine have also found that it may decrease ones chance of deaths from COVID-19.

But are there studies that have shown an increased chance of death or contracting other respiratory viruses as a result of getting the flu shot? Yes.

That’s also discussed in the paper. For example, he mentions a paper published in 2018:

In a study with 6,120 subjects, Wolff (2020) reported that influenza vaccination was significantly associated with a higher risk of some other respiratory diseases, due to virus interference. In a specific examination of non-influenza viruses, the odds of coronavirus infection (but not the COVID-19 virus) in vaccinated individuals were significantly higher, when compared to unvaccinated individuals (odds ratio = 1.36).

The study above found the flu shot to increase the risk of other coronaviruses among those who had been vaccinated for influenza by 36 percent. The study was conducted prior to COVID-19, so it’s not included and only applies to pre-existing coronaviruses. The study also found an even higher chance of contracting human metapneumovirus amongst those who had received the flu shot.

Below are some more studies regarding the flu shot and viral infections that hint to the same idea.

  • 2018 CDC study (Rikin et al 2018) found that flu shots increase the risk of non-flu acute respiratory illnesses (ARIs), including coronavirus, in children.
  • A 2011 Australian study (Kelly et al 2011) found that flu shots doubled the risk for non-flu viral lung infections.
  • 2012 Hong Kong study (Cowling et al 2012) found that flu shots increase the risk for non-flu respiratory infections by 4.4 times.
  • 2017 study (Mawson et al 2017) found vaccinated children were 5.9 times more likely to suffer pneumonia than their unvaccinated peers.

Why This Is Important: We live in an age where vaccinations are heavily marketed. We’ve seen this with the flu shot time and time again and we are also living in an age where a push for more mandated vaccines seems to be growing.

Dr. Peter Doshi is an associate editor at The BMJ (British Medical Journal) and also an assistant professor of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. He published a paper in The BMJ titled “Influenza: Marketing Vaccines By Marketing Disease.”  In it,  he points out that the CDC pledges “to base all public health decisions on the highest quality of scientific data, openly and objectively derived,” and how this isn’t the case when it comes to the flu vaccine and its marketing. He stresses that “the vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and that “the threat of influenza seems to be overstated.”

This is a touchy subject that dives into medical ethics and the connections that big pharmaceutical companies have with our federal health regulatory agencies and health associations. Vaccines are a multi billion dollar industry.

At a recent World Health Organization conference on vaccine safety, it was expressed that vaccine hesitancy is growing at quite a fast pace, especially among doctors who are now becoming hesitant to recommend certain vaccines on the schedule. You can read more about that and find links to the conference here.

We have to ask ourselves, why is this happening? Is it because people and professionals are becoming aware of certain information that warrants the freedom of choice? Should freedom of choice with regards to what we put in our body always remain? Are we really protecting the “herd” by taking these actions?

In a 2014 analysis in the Oregon Law Review by New York University (NYU) legal scholars Mary Holland and Chase E. Zachary (who also has a Princeton-conferred doctorate in chemistry), the authors show that 60 years of compulsory vaccine policies “have not attained herd immunity for any childhood disease.” It is time, they suggest, to cast aside coercion in favor of voluntary choice.

When it comes to the flu shot, I put more information and science as to why so many people seem to refuse it, in this article if interested.

The University of California is currently being sued for mandating the flu shot for all staff, faculty and students. A judge has prevented them from doing so as a result until a decision has been made. You can read more about that here.

In South Korea, 48 people have now died after receiving the flu shot this season causing a lot of controversy. You can read more about that here.

The Takeaway: There are many concerns with vaccines, and vaccine injury is one of them. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act has paid more than $4 billion to families of vaccine injured children. A 2010 HHS pilot study by the Federal Agency for Health Care Research (AHCR) found that 1 in every 39 vaccines causes injury, a shocking comparison to the claims from the CDC of 1 in every million.

Should these statistics alone warrant the freedom of choice? Should the government have the ability to force us into measures, or would it simply be better for them to present the science, make recommendations and urge people to follow them? When the citizenry is forced and coerced into certain actions, sometimes under the guise of good-will, there always seems to be a tremendous amount of uproar and people who disagree. Why are these people silenced? Why are they censored? Why are they ridiculed? Why don’t independent health organizations receive the same voice and reach that government and state “owned” or organizations do? What’s going on here? Do we really live in a free, open and transparent world or are we simply subjected to massive amounts of perception manipulation?

When it come to the flu shot there is plenty of information on both sides of the coin that point to its effectiveness, and on the other hand there is information that points to the complete opposite. When something is not 100 percent clear, freedom of choice in all places should always remain, in my opinion.

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Some South Korean Doctors & Politicians Call To Stop Flu Shots After 48 People Die

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The number of South Koreans who have died after getting flu shots has risen to 48, but health authorities in South Korea have found no link between the vaccine and the deaths.

  • Reflect On:

    Is the flu shot as safe as it's marketed to be?

What Happened: It’s that time of year and flu shot programs are rolling out across the globe. The number of South Koreans who have died after getting the flu shot has now risen to 48 and some South Korean doctors and politicians have called to stop flu shots as a result, according to Reuters. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has decided not to stop the program, and that flu vaccines would continue to be given and will reduce the chance of having simultaneous epidemics in the era of COVID-19.

Health authorities in South Korea have explained that they’ve found no direct link between these deaths and the shots. KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyung said, “After reviewing death cases so far, it is not the time to suspend a flu vaccination programme since vaccination is very crucial this year, considering…the COVID-19 outbreaks.”

According to Reuters, “Some initial autopsy results from the police and the National Forensic Service showed that 13 people died of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and other disorders not caused by the vaccination.”

The South Korean government is hopeful to vaccinate approximately 30 million of the country’s 54 million people.

Concerns Some People Have With The Flu Shot: One concern many people seem to have is the worry of a severe adverse reaction.

Dr. Alvin Moss, MD and professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine emphasizes in this video:

The flu vaccine happens to be the vaccine that causes the most injury in this country. The vaccine injury compensation program, 40 percent of all vaccinations in this country are flu shots, but 60 percent of all the compensations are for the flu vaccine. So a disproportionate number of  vaccine related injuries are the flu shot.

Moss is one of many who believe that the flu vaccine is not as effective as it’s been marketed to be. For example,  A study recently published in Global Advances In Health & Medicine titled “Ascorbate as Prophylaxis and Therapy for COVID-19—Update From Shanghai and U.S. Medical Institutions outlines the following:

Recently outlined A recent consensus statement from a group of renowned infectious disease clinicians observed that vaccine programs have proven ill-suited to the fast-changing viruses underlying these illnesses, with efficacy ranging from 19% to 54% in the past few years.

Dr. Peter Doshi is an associate editor at The BMJ (British Medical Journal)  published a paper in The BMJ titled “Influenza: Marketing Vaccines By Marketing Disease.”  In it,  he points out that the CDC pledges “to base all public health decisions on the highest quality of scientific data, openly and objectively derived,” and how this isn’t the case when it comes to the flu vaccine and its marketing. He stresses that “the vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and that “the threat of influenza seems to be overstated.”

These are just a few examples out of many claiming that the flu shot has not really been effective, opposing others that claim it is.  Mercury that’s still present in some flu shots also seems to be a concern.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act has paid more than $4 billion to families of vaccine injured children. A 2010 HHS pilot study by the Federal Agency for Health Care Research (AHCR) found that 1 in every 39 vaccines causes injury, a shocking comparison to the claims from the CDC of 1 in every million.

Professor Heidi Larson, a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project stated at a World Health Organization (WHO) conference that more doctors are starting to be hesitant when it comes to recommending vaccines.

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers, we have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen… still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider…

This is no secret, and actions against mandates are being taken. The University of California was recently sued for making the flu shot mandatory. That trial will begin soon, and you can read more about it here, and find information regarding the claim that the flu shot can help in the times of COVID-19.

The Takeaway: We are living in an age of extreme censorship of information, no matter how credible or how much evidence is provided, information that goes against the grain always seems to receive a harsh backlash from mainstream media as well as social media outlets. Why is there a digital fact checker patrolling the internet? Should people not have the right to examine information openly and freely and determine for themselves what is and what isn’t?

As far as vaccines are concerned, despite the fact that there are many safety issues the scientific community  is bringing up, a push for vaccine mandates continues and the idea that we are protecting other people is usually the narrative that’s pushed hard. Vaccine skepticism is growing at a fast pace among people of all professions, and people aren’t stupid. There’s a reason why more and more people are starting to question what we’ve been told for years, and those reasons should be acknowledged and openly discussed amongst people on both sides of the coin.

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