We live in a world that changes daily. The new coronavirus pandemic puts us to the test.
The wheel of science spins as fast as it can and has never been closer to us. Inviting us to understand phenomena such as the operation of a virus, the use of personal protective equipment, the discussion of the types of diagnostic tests, the operation of one or another drug, the approval of new drugs and vaccines, or understand the prophylaxis and daily care, etc. In short, a whole areas that until then was almost exclusive for scientists and health professionals.
All of this comes to us through social media and the media, and we often feel compelled to voice our opinions on these issues.
In the frantic pace of information, false and true news mixes, often forcing health organizations to make public statements and clarify widespread lies and inventions. In the midst of this blitz of information, it is essential to identify that not all “innocent” lies are so innocent.
The phenomenon of denialism
Denialism is a term that emerged in the 1980s in France.
They were introduced by historians to designate a group of academics who denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers. Since then, this term has transcended the discipline of history, and in contemporary society it has been used in several areas.
The common basic feature of denialism is the attitude of a person or group to deny proven events or facts, creating a new convenient narrative without presenting new data or facts that contradict what has been said previously.
Denialism should not be confused with revisionism, which is the practice of examining facts from new sources or evidence.
Denialism sometimes begins within the academic community, then is defended by groups in society, even when this initial “theory” has already been refuted within the academy itself.
These ideas are infiltrating the media, on social networks, never with solid arguments, but always with a well thought-out format to achieve their main objective; confuse and manipulate according to interests. Denialist “theories” show a new truth that is easy, light, and quick to digest, thus finding adherents all over the world.
In relation to the historical facts, we see the denialism applied to the Holocaust, and to the Latin American dictatorships (referring to the death of thousands of people as “war against Marxist terrorism”) and the Armenian genocide. All these passages demand the historical repair and the penalization of those involved (when this is still possible), so that the denialists when they say that such events did not occur try to prevent adequate reparations from being made in addition to allowing the brutal events to reoccur.
We find descriptions of a type of climate denialism that says global warming is a lie or manipulation, despite studies showing a record of temperature increases over the past 20 years, and the melting of the polar ice caps is proven.
In science a well-known form of denialism is flat earthers, a movement that claims that the Earth is flat.
It is frequent, beyond the claims they make, that the denialists carry with them some conspiracy theory that makes us think that they want to cheat us for some financial, political, etc. reason.
Denialism ‘infected’ like a virus.
It is common among denialists to promote unbelief in the sciences, especially in the human and biological sciences.
Science is essentially change. Something that was demonstrated yesterday may not work tomorrow and if so, it is precisely because science is always evolving, surpassing and discovering new steps in an escalation of the collective construction of knowledge.
The denialist groups take advantage of this dynamic situation and implant the idea that science is not reliable, that it is not worth following, because today they tell you something and tomorrow that changes.
A vision through the new humanism.
The new humanism proposes a fundamental principle related to our theme; the affirmation of freedom of ideas and beliefs.
A denialist might argue that he has the right to think differently than is established. It is true, but you have to look at the broad context that this “new thought” promotes. If this new version hides violence, promotes violence or prejudices others, then it should not be accepted because two other fundamental principles for a humanistic attitude are to promote non-violence and non-discrimination.
In a moment as intense as the one we live in, where the lives of thousands of people are at stake, we must strive to move and promote practices that protect as many people as possible and not support or disseminate information that is not in favor of what health organizations consider best. Science must be an example for society, being transparent and ethical in its actions.
Certainly there will be errors but these will be due to the limitations of the moment and not due to improvisations or lies spread in bad faith, by those who respond to political and economic interests above social welfare.
Rousso, Henry. «The Political and Cultural Roots of Negationism in France.» South Central Review, vol. 23 no. 1, 2006, p. 67-88. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/scr.2006.0014.
Silo. “Contribuições ao Pensamento” disponível em www.silo.net
Pompei J. Teoria y Practica- Metodo estructural Dinâmica- Centro Mundial de Estudios Humanistas.
Wolf, Kenneth Baxter, «Negating Negationism» (2014). Pomona Faculty Publications and Research. 394.
Translated from portuguese by Lulith V.