October 2, 2006


Manufactured mass hysteria (Michael Fumento, October 2, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

One glaring problem is that those 9.500 evaluated in the Mount Sinai study aren't a representative sample of responders, merely an assessment of specific responders from a total of about 40,000.

That is, this is not an epidemiological study, which would deliberately "want a group of people who are selected using a sampling design, where the group represents a study population," observes John Fairbank, co-director of the UCLA-Duke University Medical Center National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. "This doesn't."

This study looked only at the minority of responders who came to Mount Sinai to have their health monitored. People who participate in such medical studies tend to do so because they believe they're sick. So you can't make any meaningful comparisons to responders who didn't volunteer for the study or to the general public. They simply aren't random or representative. This problem alone wholly invalidates the significance that Mount Sinai and the media gave the report.

But what about those spirometer readings? All this device (invented 150 years ago) can do is measure breathing capacity. And labored breathing is a main symptom of psychogenic illness.

Ultimately, nothing in the report offers the least shred of evidence that the suffering responders aren't by and large suffering from psychogenic illness. The term is commonly misinterpreted as meaning "it's all in your heads." But it actually means the symptoms can be quite real and debilitating but that they originated with stress. September 11 is synonymous with stress for the entire nation, and certainly far more so for the responders.

Medical annals are filled with incidents of mass psychogenic illness hysteria. For example, in Kosovo in 1990 at least 4,000 residents suffered a mystery illness that began at a high school. Observed researchers: "An outbreak of respiratory infection within a single class appears to have triggered fears that Serbs may have dispensed poison." They hadn't. Rumors of Israeli-spread poison gas caused a similar mass outbreak of illness among West Bank Palestinians in 1983.

That brings us to perhaps the most distressing aspect of the WTC outbreak.

In addition to the trauma experienced at the WTC site, the best explanation for these ills is that they have been induced by the media and select scientists who steadily beat the drum insisting that responders ought to be sick. The bastion of these scientists since 2002 has been – surprise! – Mount Sinai.

Mr. Fumento will be blogging from Iraq this week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 2, 2006 12:26 PM

Ask any lawyer how this kind of "hysteria" is "manufactured."

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 2, 2006 1:59 PM