The Covid-19 pandemic has been a revelation in a lot of aspects. One of the most remarkable facet of it is the politicization of discourse surrounding the disease by public health experts. While politicians would suffer the blame for a lot of their actions, and rightly so, it is bizarre that most public health experts will get a free pass.
The terrible conduct of “experts” came to the fore recently when one Faheem Younus, based in the United States but of Pakistani origin, linked cases of mucormycosis that have propped in a few states recently to some people in Gujarat taking ‘Gobar Snan’ to protect themselves from Covid-19.
Reuters had reported that those in question were “going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, the coronavirus”.
By all accounts, it is a very isolated practice. No one in their right minds would argue that this is a widespread practice among the Indian population. It appears ludicrous, yes, but fear makes people do ludicrous things, things they would not do otherwise normally.
What has proceeded since then is an absolute disgrace. Faheem Younus, without any evidence whatsoever by his own admission, linked that isolated practice to the increasing prevalence of mucormycosis.
He suggested in a tweet that “use of cow dung as a ‘COVID Cure’ could be causing deadly black fungus disease (mucormycosis) in India” before adding “I can’t prove it but it’s highly likely. Weigh your risks.” It is precisely the sort of garbage that makes people lose faith in institutions.
It is utterly irresponsible to attach such causal links to extremely isolated events during moments of crisis. That he chose to do so only serves to sow the seeds of doubt in everything else he says. Younus later deleted the tweet but the damage was done.
The media, known for its Hinduphobic inclinations, simply ran with the story without performing due diligence. The Print published a report with the headline, “Doctors hint at cow dung-black fungus link as people turn to gobar for Covid ‘cure’”.
How many people turned to Gobar for Covid cure? How many of those currently suffering from mucormycosis performed the ‘Gobar Snan’? The report does not provide answers to such questions because the media is fully aware that the answers will not work in their favour.
One senior doctor at AIIMS did admit, “While we cannot establish the relationship on use of cow dung and getting diagnosed with black fungus, it seems logical to think that use of dung definitely increases the risk of catching the mucor infection.”
Dr. Neha Gupta, a consultant at Gurugram based Medanta, said, “The relationship definitely exists. But till now, the major reasons behind the surge in (black fungus) cases are related to the climate, increased spore burden in hospitals, patients with uncontrolled diabetes, along with the use of steroids and other immunosuppressive Covid drugs.”
It is quite the leap of logic here. The current cases do not show any effect of cow dung but the relationship “definitely” exists. How absurd does that sound? One of the major reasons for mucormycosis currently is the use of steroids but somehow, cow-dung takes precedence over it. Why exactly?
Politicians are now using the misinformation to spread their own propaganda. But let us not forget, it initially came from a ‘public health expert’, then magnified by a compromised media.
As it so happens, this is not the first time that ‘public health experts’ have undermine public faith in institutions through misinformation. For instance, during the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, ‘public health experts’ came out in support of the mass gatherings in the name of protests and said they should not be stopped in the name of Covid-19.
This was at a time when families were barred from conducting funerals for the loved ones they lost. More recently, Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the US President, painted an apocalyptic scenario after states like Texas lifted the mask mandate and opened at full capacity.
When he was asked why did his prediction not come true when cases continued to drop in both states despite the lack of restrictions, he could not provide any legitimate answer and fumbled for a response.
Dr. Fauci on Texas Covid cases dropping despite ignoring his advice on masks/social distancing: “It can be confusing, because … often you have to wait a few weeks before you see the effect … I’m not really quite sure. It could be they’re doing things outdoors” pic.twitter.com/yuFEPoE2BV— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) April 6, 2021
That was in March, now it is mid-May and the apocalyptic scenario simply has not come to pass. And yet, people such as Fauci have not come out to admit that they were wrong. Of course, the improving scenario in USA has a lot to do with the fact that the vaccination rates are a lot higher there than in India, which has afforded them the chance to open up largely.
Fauci’s doom-mongering was such that even mainstream media talking-heads lost their patience with him. Pollster Nate Silver accused of “gaslighting” and was quite fed up with him.
There was another occasion when The Lancet published a garbage study on Hydroxychloroquine, that was circulated greatly before it was eventually retracted by the publication. Now, we have The Lancet indulging in petty politics in India.
But the most unforgiveable of all is the manner in which ‘experts’ dubbed the lab-leak novel Coronavirus origin hypothesis a ‘conspiracy theory’ without a shred of evidence. As time has passed, more and more scientists are seriously considering the possibility that the virus indeed leaked from a lab in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
All of this has contributed to a deep mistrust of institutions, and rightly so. ‘Follow the Science’ has been the biggest scam that has been perpetuated during the Covid-19 crisis. When “experts” refuse to hold their own accountable while indulging in petty politics, people are bound to lose trust in institutions. And the consequences can be devastating.
The Media Propaganda
The mainstream media is known to amplify narratives that paint Hindus as a community in poor light while covering up for dangerous fake news emanating from other communities. During the advent of the pandemic, when certain individuals were highlighting Namaz as a cure to the Coronavirus, the media was nowhere to be found.
The President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, was peddling a dangerous narrative about Covid-19 cure but that did not attract the attention of the media.
The Guardian reported in February 2021, “Magufuli has denied the local spread of Covid-19 in Tanzania, discouraged the mention of the disease by health workers, rejected most conventional measures in favour of prayer and said vaccines are dangerous, without offering any evidence.”
That, somehow, did not attract the kind of narrative that we currently see underway against India. Even in our country itself, we had those calling the virus “Allah’s NRC” and yet, the media constantly played to their defense.
More recently, the global media was cheering for the “largest farmers protest in the history of the world” and now we have concrete evidence that suggests the farmer protests are linked to the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, it is the Kumbh Mela that is blamed. And now with the connivance of “experts”, we have a practice performed by extremely few individuals linked to mucormycosis even though the evidence suggests a link to steroid use.
It happens time after time after time. And now it has gotten boring due to overuse because everyone sees right through their propaganda. The “experts” nevertheless must introspect because they are doing irreparable harm to public faith in institutions.