If you watched the Nolan Batman Trilogy (“Batman Begins” to “The Dark Knight Rises”), you may have noticed a phrase that was uttered throughout. In “Batman Begins,” our hero is told to use “theatricality and deception” as “weapons against the uninitiated.” He was being told to use small explosions and smoke to distract his opponents and gain an advantage. He took that a step further and created the Batman persona in order to protect those he loves from retaliation when he went after the bad guys.
As you can see, Batman wasn’t the only one using theatricality and deception. His adversaries also did, to deadly consequences. In “Batman Begins,” the League of Shadows releases a toxin to bring fear to the people of Gotham. In “The Dark Knight,” the Joker uses a lot of deception to play games with our hero and the Gotham City Police Department. And, in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Bane hides in the shadows and acts from within them, very patiently, until he stikes and holds the city hostage.
It is also Bane who says something about theatricality and deception:
“Theatricality and deception, powerful agents against the uninitiated… But we are initiated, aren’t we, Bruce?” Some days, I feel just like Batman did at the end of that fight, to be honest.
So what’s all this about? What does theatricality and deception have to do with fighting pseudo-science and misinformation? Well, pseudo-science and misinformation are all about theatrics to trick you into believing something and lies to scare you away from other things. For example, there are anti-vaccine organizations that constantly misconstrue data in VAERS (the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System). Although they have been told all the limitations on VAERS,organizations (like the National Vaccine Information Center) continue to use the information as a platform on how horrible vaccines are. For example, their supporters say that there have been “X” number of deaths reported to VAERS after the “Y” vaccine. Yet they fail to tell us how many of those deaths are directly attributed to the vaccine, or what those deaths were. I wish I was joking, but they actually count a traffic accident death as a vaccine-related death.
And then there are those who take data and create some interesting graphs to convince you that “Vaccines Didn’t Save Us” when they actually did. They graph mortality and say that it dropped before vaccines came along for a disease. They never graph morbidity (i.e. the number of cases) because that drops like a rock after vaccines are introduced.
However, if you only graph mortality (i.e. the number of deaths), then you see that the number of deaths from measles drops before the vaccine, but not because we didn’t need vaccines. They dropped because there was better and more available healthcare to treat people with measles. But the cases were still there, making people miserable, causing misery. To say that the MMR vaccine was not needed because — maybe magically — measles would have been completely eradicated, they use this graph:
And, of course, there is theatricality in the “documentaries” being touted as proof that vaccines cause horrible things. There’s a documentary about the HPV vaccine that Orac reviews quite thoroughly. And there are now two documentaries about a clinic in Texas that charges thousands of dollars for people to sign up for a clinical trial of a drug for which there is no evidence of it working.
In these and many other cases, theatricality and deception manage to rope in the “uninitiated,” people who don’t know or can’t tell the difference between real science and pseudo-science. That’s where we come in… We, the initiated.
To the right of this blog, you’ll see a list of blogs that I follow, all written by very bright men and women. Go check them out, sign up to follow them, and read them on your spare time. There is plenty of information in them, and you will be better “initiated” to fight the good fight and recognize when you’re being deceived.