Tuesday, October 26, 2021


I’m unlocking today’s Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, about Rod Dreher’s review of Ross Douthat’s Lyme Disease book. As you might expect, it’s a popular subject among rightwingers as Douthat is one of their made men. But since the book apparently talks about Douthat’s Lyme being chronic, Megan McArdle’s review talks mostly about how she once had what looked like a chronic disease but it turned out to be poor medication reconciliation, tee hee, and (so?) she’s dubious about Douthat’s chronic Lyme claim; Freddie DeBoer, while lavishing praise on Douthat’s prose (I know, suspicious already, right?), argues that chronic Lyme doesn’t exist.  

I forebear to judge, noting that many reputable doctors treat Lyme patients’ symptoms for years. And I wouldn’t judge Douthat’s book either, since I have not and will not read it; life’s way too short. But I note that when Douthat’s rightwing reviewers address his apparently alt-medical opinions, they hasten to tell us that they are certainly not against skepticism toward traditional medicine. De Boer:

I stress that I know how he feels; the paternalistic and arbitrary behavior of doctors is a ubiquitous aspect of mental health treatment, and the unique feeling of helplessness that doctors can inspire is something I have lived with many times in my life. But as some point the ruminations on the failings of the medical system start to feel rote, and Douthat’s objections remind me uncomfortably of myself. Because I spent nearly ten years denying my mental illness entirely and another half-decade refusing medication, and thus far have only spent four accepting both the diagnosis and the treatment. All along, my denial and obstinacy were fed by a set of complaints about the medical system that were visceral, justified, and true. But they were also, undeniably, an excuse to look at everything involved in my mental health but myself. [italics mine]

DeBoer seems to be saying, “Yeah, I thought medical science was a con and didn’t even consider that I had a mental illness, let alone take pills for it; now, guess what, I know I’m mentally ill and I took the pills, but I still think medical science is a con that just happened to be right.” McArdle, without totally buying Douthat’s diagnosis, nonetheless defends his skepticism (“I, like Douthat, also know the peril of deferring to doctors who want to treat only what they can measure”) and ends with some rather weak woo:

That does not, of course, prove that chronic Lyme is real. But neither does the absence of clear evidence provide evidence of absence. Given the uncertainties, it seems to me far better to risk false hope than to too meekly accept a counsel of despair.

Or, the sun’ll come up tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.

As addressed in the newsletter, Dreher is more ferociously anti-medical-establishment, raving about ivermectin and “how blind science can be” and even working in a Lyme Disease version of the COVID Lab Leak story (Lyme Leak?). 

What all these guys appear to have in common is a vested interest in the kind of “skepticism” beloved of the anti-vaxx community, crystal healers, and such specifically rightwing alt-med-grifters as Stella “Demon Sperm” Immanuel. This is becoming, as we can see from the people screaming at nurses outside hospitals and the cops marching against vaccination requirements, an important constituency for the new Republican coalition. And it mirrors the whole conservative project to destroy any faith in once-respected authorities such as government, schools, and medical science, so that it may be more easily transferred to Trump and similar goons. 

Oh, also of note: Last month a Texas court threw out a suit against the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), brought by a Lyme sufferer and associates who claim the organization, which publishes standards for Lyme treatment, "engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to deny the existence and prevent treatment of chronic Lyme disease." Now that they've lost, maybe they'll just track the scientists down and assault them, like their co-loons do at hospitals. And do look at the comments at the Roy Edroso Breaks It Down story, especially those of people who've had Lyme Disease and have their own opinions about Dreher's angle. 


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