Does the New York Times use “SPIN” ?

I recently had a conversation with a very intelligent and discerning person regarding “alternative” narratives. In today’s terms we could say that he hadn’t been “red-pilled” yet. I don’t care for the term because it over simplifies a very delicate and personal process of dismantling and rebuilding a conceptual framework to support a new interpretation of the world. The “red pill” offered to Neo in “The Matrix” wasn’t appropriate for everyone. Moreover, “red pills” come in all shapes, sizes and, well…. colors.

This person had the presence of mind to get right down to the essence of the divide between our perspectives. “Look”, he said, “I trust the New York Times. If it doesn’t appear there, I don’t have any reason to believe what you are telling me.”

I was grateful that he had spared me the need to explain contexts, alternative historical accounts and all the other background required to usher him into a new paradigm. This is invariably where open exchanges (when they occur) lead and end up. We may begin with an exploration into logic and science, but ultimately we find ourselves retreating to the reassuring news sources we have trusted our whole life. This person, like many other educated and curious people, believed that the integrity of venerated publications like the New York Times was unassailable. Is it possible to demonstrate that this assumption is unfounded?

Are we too distracted by COVID-19?

Right now most of the world is in one form of a “lockdown” or another. There may be a very real existential threat to our species in the form of a highly transmissible and potent virus. This possibility is perfectly aligned with hypothetical scenarios that our scientific institutions have formulated in the past. At the same time there has been growing public concern over the deployment of 5G technology which seems to be moving forward at breakneck pace despite the unprecedented slow down of human activity around the planet. Those who are voicing concern about this are often being vilified as purveyors of yet another “Conspiracy Theory” that will undermine the ability of our authorities to manage the very real crisis at hand. How are we to decide what to believe?

Many educated and informed people in this country rely on the New York Times for its research and perspective on all important topics, especially those that are nuanced and controversial. Here I will explore an article that ran in the SCIENCE section of The New York Times in May, 2019 entitled “Your 5G phone won’t hurt you, but Russia wants you to think otherwise”. The article is particularly interesting, not so much for its validity as a counter argument to the concern around the safety of 5G transmissions but as a clear demonstration of how even a venerated and iconic institution is not beyond the use of “spin” to influence the reader. Some of it is astonishingly overt.

All 5G dissenters are generalized as having dubious intentions

First and foremost the article cites “RT America” (formerly known as Russia Today) as the voice of concern around 5G. It is true that this platform of dubious credibility has published content that challenges the safety of 5G. By doing this, the Times article is indirectly insinuating that the content must be inaccurate or misleading. There has been a plethora of scientific opinion that casts doubt upon the safety of 5G (see below), but by directing our attention only to RT America we are led to believe concern over 5G safety is unfounded or based in some sort of Russian initiative.

This opinion piece in Scientific American summarizes the strident voices of hundreds of physicians and scientists that are calling for a moratorium on 5G technology until further studies are conducted. These are not politically motivated individuals with an agenda. They are talking about science and safety. The Times piece however, refers to Russia, RT, Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin over a dozen times in an article that is ostensibly about the safety of a band of electromagnetic radiation on our health. What is the purpose behind this association?

The medical benefits of 5G are said to be numerous but not referenced

The Times article suggests that 5G is the foundation for “innovative industries” including medical advances. It references another article that, when examined, describes medical technologies that do not actually need or use the kind of broadband communications that 5G offers. Interestingly, the article referenced describes a rather disturbing initiative to implant devices in pills so that health care providers will know that their patients are actually taking their medications. When implemented, the signal from the pill gets picked up when the pill begins to be absorbed in the stomach! Nonetheless, the casual reader will likely assume that a moratorium on 5G will be bad for innovation and for us.

Basic scientific principles are labeled as “Scare Tactics”

The article implies that when RT calls radio waves “radiation” they are using a scare tactic. Radio waves ARE radiation. All electromagnetic waves are radiation. The energy of the radiation is a function of its frequency. Energy, like matter, exists in minute, indivisible portions, or quanta. A single quantum of electromagnetic energy is called a photon. The energy of the photon is directly proportional to its frequency. We cannot escape the fact that 5G will bombard our planet with photons of higher energy. This is not a scare tactic. It could be very real threat to our cellular health.

The Times admits that X Rays and Ultraviolet radiation is dangerous but at “the opposite end” of the spectrum. The point here is that we are talking about a continuum of frequency. 5G carrier frequencies are not so far away from those that are considered “ionizing”, or powerful enough to break chemical bonds, or disrupt biological molecules. The idea that there is a frequency beyond which everything becomes unsafe is an absurd proposition in nature or in any examination of a large group of individuals that can have varying responses to stimuli. It is more useful (and accurate) to understand that a continuum of frequencies will generate a continuum of effects. 

The Times offers a graphic to help us understand. Conspicuously absent is the mention of microwaves, a frequency we are all familiar with. Microwaves are longer (and less powerful) than those of 5G. Note that the graphic demonstrates that the radiation that Airport Scanners use are in the 5G band. We readily subject ourselves to TSA scanning, so why should we be afraid of 5G? On the other hand, would you want to be in an airport scanner for more than a few seconds a couple times of year? How does the omission and inclusion of certain data affect how one interprets the big picture?

Information from The World Health Organization supports further investigation but we are told otherwise

The Times author then sources an article from The W.H.O. which they claim puts this all to rest. The article was written in 2014 and does not report anything definitive about cellular phone transmissions and safety. In fact, in the article, the W.H.O. refers to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’s opinion on the safety of radio frequency transmissions on our health: “Based largely on these data, IARC has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.” In other words, in the very article the Times offers as evidence of “careful science” and “data that contradicts dire alarms” is an open admission that radio frequency electromagnetic fields are a credible risk to our health. The “further ongoing studies” mentioned are notably not referenced.

Furthermore the W.H.O. had the audacity to suggest that “…tissue heating is the principle mechanism between radio frequency energy and the human body …”. This is an absurd position to take if one has a basic understanding of physiology. They are treating an incredibly complex and intricately balanced system that is the living human body and considering it as something that can only be harmed by radiation if it gets warmer. Perhaps this simplistic model would be appropriate if we were assessing the effects of radiation on a brick or bowl of water. A single living human cell is a symphony of trillions of complex molecules engaged in billions of energetic reactions every second resulting in electrical potentials and currents which are highly dependent upon a complex milieu of ions and proteins held in a tight range of concentration and pH. As a physician myself, I find this simplistic perspective an insult to the intelligence of all my colleagues and to the body of knowledge that our predecessors have built over the centuries.

The list above is by no means comprehensive. Other liberties are taken by the author to mislead the reader to unfounded conclusions, however those mentioned here should be enough to point out that the integrity of trusted institutions like the New York Times are not necessarily beyond reproach. The possibility that no source can be trusted absolutely will be unsettling to many of us who have grown accustomed to deferring to others for the “truth”. We are arriving at the inescapable reality that we may have to rely on our own wits to negotiate the endless narratives and partial truths rampant in our information-rich world. How do we hear the signal in the noise? Perhaps that is the lesson 5G is here to teach us. 

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