Saturday, January 2, 2016

Academics citing political claims as factual

Don't get me wrong : an academic citation pointing to a statement made by a politician is a citation to a fact : that a certain politician claimed a certain something on a certain date at a certain place.

But it is not a proof that anything the politician said in reference to the external world is in anyway true.

This may (or may not) shock you about politicians and truth-telling.

It might shock (some of) you about the credulity of academics.

During WWII's era of secrecy, few actually fully believed government propaganda ---- but now that the veil has been lifted , everybody does...

Enough people were actually at the front lines of activity and could talk to enough family & friends to ensure that most government bumpf that came out was quickly discounted. At the time.

But now all those eyewitnesses to the actual truth are dead and so despite the veil of secrecy having been lifted, more people now believe wartime propaganda (at secondhand) than ever did during the war.

Case in point : Australian Labour politician James Fraser on May 23 1944 telling the Australian parliament that Australia was the first in the world to supply all its military needs and also to (here, read carefully) 'supply the essential life-saving needs of its civilians.'

A claim much modified and then much repeated in Australia intellectual circles in recent years.

(For example, his statement is back dated to April 1944 - to get around the awkward fact that such a claim also publicly made by America at the end of April 1944 ----- with much more factual validity.

And all his careful - weasel word - disclaimers are discarded.)

America at the very least in April 1994 was not denying penicillin to dying civilian patients with SBE disease as Australia still was - some Australian civilian lives are more essential to being saved than others, apparently.

In fact, it took well into 1945 and often into 1946 before civilians in the major penicillin producing nations of the US, UK, Canada and Australia got full conventional access to penicillin via their GP and chemist.

Other civilians in other countries took years longer still.

On the other hand, a few civilians in the various Allied countries got penicillin in the three and a half war years before the first few in the military got penicillin.

Even after all early mass produced supplies were supposedly all assigned to the military only, most acute cases of life or death blood poisoning presented in the large (well-connected) civilian teaching hospitals could access military supplies because most military cases weren't in fact, as urgent.

The actual facts are very complicated and reveal great amounts of inequality and huge amounts of sheer luck (good or bad) bedevilling people needing penicillin during the war years.

My research suggests that a news story out of Brisbane, this time actually in the legendary month of April 1944, was the real spark that lit the fire under the rear end of the Aussie politician.

Dr Vincent Duhig, 'inside agitator' and constant thorn in the side of the Aussie Labour-Liberal Establishment, had for eight months been saving civilian lives with his own freelance DIY homebrew penicillin.

 His ZEN method of penicillin making belies all other claims that making wartime penicillin to save lives was just too hard.

This amazing penicillin story - not Fraser's claim - should be legendary in Australia - as in movie-made-about-it.

The mere thought that freelancers in the outback would garner the credit for saving civilian lives while they could not really frightened the career civil service lifers at big city Melbourne's government-run CSL (Commonwealth Serum Laboratories).

There they were indeed making penicillin as fast as they could, as hard as they could -- but basically only for the military.

Hence their urgent cry out to politician Fraser to defend CSL as hard as he could as fast as he could, in public, with his carefully weasel words.

But Australians still dutifully parrot Fraser's claim, without his careful limiting weasel words.

My fellow Canadians are almost as bad, also still parroting some wartime official claim that they were the first to supply their civilians.

Nothing changes much so resign yourself to much more such 'magical thinking' from politicians and the journalists and academics who cite them, as each nation and political party angles to get credit for dealing with our current global climate crisis....

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