Consider the Hashtag #Godgifu

I’ve been giving some thought to how to portray in a twitter-short way the fake news element. A major goal of public relations is to find a nice word to wallpaper over the unnice version so everything sounds better. Or worse, to promote the unnice in the name of nice. This goes beyond logical fallacies. It’s much more sinister than euphemisms. It’s almost as sinister as #MACRA.

For twitter brevity, I think we need to roll out a new hashtag to flag notions which are patently lies. While the rest of the world goes on declaring lies to be the truth, we could indicate we see through the hype.

As for a hashtag, I would humbly suggest #Godgifu. The Old English name for Lady Godiva. Unfortunately, the lately added chocolate association intrudes into the symbolism, but with the Old English version of her name, perhaps we won’t think chocolate when we see the hashtag. The Godgifu folktale does such a wonderful job of illustrating lying about reality. The watchers of Lady Godgifu’s ride down her city street knew good and well Godgifu was riding through town naked. It is reported most looked the other way, although apparently Peeping Tom didn’t. If asked, all would have sworn Lady Godgifu was indeed wearing clothes. They didn’t want to lose their heads. As we sometimes prefer silence to facing a social media attack for expressing a differing opinion.

A wonderful example of this kind of righteous indignation—and these announcements are always delivered righteously—is the statement of one of the attorneys for the #NODPL protesters that they had suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of law enforcement. I don’t want to get into an argument about whether you are a “water protector” or a vandal occupying private lands, killing privately owned cattle, and destroying private property. But one thing is very clear about #NODPL. A large number of these protesters were not protesting peacefully. The constitution gives us a right to protest peacefully. Period. Peacefully does not mean blocking highways, setting vehicles on fire, and throwing Molotov cocktails at law enforcement.

In this country, somewhere in the years between sit-ins and the “water protectors,” it has become common practice for “peaceful” protesters to be anything but peaceful. Yet at least one of the lawyerly public defenders of the water protectors made patently untrue statements about the abuse of these peaceful protesters by law enforcement.

We have gone beyond PR here. We have gone beyond bureaucratese. We have gone beyond euphemism. We just boldfacedly state lies as if they are the truth. But worse, we get angry when anyone as much as hints that there may be two sides to the story. There’s the “water protectors” and their lawyers side to the story and if a few have the audacity to think a little differently, toss a Molotov cocktail at them, burn their vehicles, create doctored videos showing fake scars from “abusive” behavior of police, and most certainly attack them personally. Forget about a discussion of the issues. No one is permitted to even hint at disagreeing with their version of reality. Oh, pardon me…the “truth.”

Social media has allowed anyone anywhere to scream their “truth” to the world and if anyone disagrees with that truth, fill the airwaves with all kinds of libel and slander in retaliation. Truth is irrelevant. The other side of the story is irrelevant. This is ignorance writ large. In social media country, what was once a constitutional democracy has become a Greek democracy of old. Didn’t matter whether your witness told the truth or not. Only thing that mattered was your having at least one more liar supporting your version of the “crime” than your opponent.

#Godgifu reality is fairly easy to see in the #NODPL controversy, but when the Godgifu schema of things becomes the way a country’s medical care delivery system, it’s a lot harder to see where the lies are hidden.

I’ve written about the failings of #MACRA elsewhere, but the nature of this “improvement” in the quality of medical care is greatly misrepresented. Might as well be “water protectors” righteously declaring their concern for the quality of the water while leaving megatons of trash to wash into the Missouri River when the spring thaw comes to the prairie.

Whether it’s evidence-based medicine, #EMRs, or perceived expert systems, the years of training and experience of physicians cannot be captured with layer upon layer of checklists. True medical expertise resides in the anecdotal experiences of physicians gathered over years of listening to patient story and treating the patient as an individual. This kind of expertise—the very antithesis of meaningful data collection—won’t be found in a research justifying reducing care and cutting costs.

Any attempt to put a value on medical care by comparing checklist outcomes from one physician with that of another has failure written all over it. Yes, there’s data here, data which some HIT person somewhere may be able to put into some sort of table that may actually contain some useful observations. But stop pretending these results have anything to do with the quality of care expert physicians provide their patients on a daily basis.


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