You can hunt anything you want, animals, insects and, latterly, human beings, especially scientists. This happened to us and to Tom in the august columns of the New York Times (NYT), as we reported here, here and here.
The main problem appears to have been that the columnist took exception to the idea that the Cochrane Review A122 failed to find any better quality evidence of mask effectiveness, and of course, she proceeded to try to shoot the messenger.
Ever since her article, however, some of the background to her intervention has come to light, and Tom has written back to the NYT pointing out some of the consequences of its irresponsible behaviour:
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Dear Ms. Kingsbury,
Thank you for your reply dated March 18th to my complaint dated March 15th 2023.
Matters are not what you reported, although I understand your willingness to defend your columnist.
Dr. Tufekci seems to have forgotten to make clear that she has been lobbying CDC and maybe other organisations for over three years to impose mask mandates, although she has no scientific expertise in this matter. This happened after a somersault from her initial position against use of masks (she is in very good company in such a change of course in March 2020). Elsewhere she described creating a new symbolism around the use of masks, a clearly ideological standpoint which has naught to do with science.
Dr. Tufekci now publicly claims that she has corrected Cochrane (although it was hard work it took her almost a month). She has done no such thing, as no edits have been made to the review text.
You and Dr. Tufekci state that the Plain Language Summary of the review may have helped people misinterpret the review.
Possible corrections, addenda and edits in science (and in the Cochrane Library) are handled through the editorial peer review mechanism, not through the columns of a daily. It seems to me that by insisting on corrections and claiming “victory” the New York Times through its columnist is trying to subvert not just Cochrane but the whole scientific process, while launching a personal attack on me, one of the twelve authors. Her attack on our review and on me can perhaps be explained in her own words: “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out.”
I ask you to look again in detail at the personal agenda of your columnist and ask yourself if subversion of the scientific process through unqualified comments is the aim of the New York Times. Finally I note that your mission is to “seek the truth and help people understand the world“.
I do not think this is possible if you hold an ideological view.
I believe that given the facts you owe me at least a right of reply.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Professor Tom Jefferson
Senior Associate Tutor
University of Oxford
It remains to be seen whether the complaint will be taken seriously.
Our dissection of the UKHSA mask review that we had scheduled for today has been postponed to Friday at the request of GB News which will be interviewing one of us on Friday just after the 10am news to present our findings. In making this decision, we were aware that we had promised publication today, but the opportunity of communicating on TV is too great to let go.
We hope that our readers will forgive us and tune in on Friday morning.
Last but not least, Carl is busy drafting his response to a Request for Evidence under Rule 9 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 Module 2 of the U.K. COVID-19 Public Inquiry..
We plan to serialise the response once it is ready and, of course, any reply the NYT might send us.
But please do not hold your breath, and as we have said many times before, keep away from mainstream media headlines. They are one of the main causes of the mess we are in.
Dr. Carl Heneghan is the Oxford Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Dr. Tom Jefferson is an epidemiologist based in Rome who works with Professor Heneghan on the Cochrane Collaboration. This article was first published on their Substack blog, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.