Monday, October 4, 2021

Mark Postles, anti-vaccination and the Sovereign Citizen

Good morning,

It's Wednesday the 16th of September 2021 and, with vaccine rates climbing towards the 80% bracket, the population is hoping that this Christmas will signal an effective end to the pandemic, albeit not the reality of covid-19. And, so you understand my own position on vaccines - as a chiropractor of 20 years, now retired, I faithfully spent the first 10 or so being a good chiropractic 'team player'. I failed to indulge in full blown conspiracy but still refused vaccines preferring to call myself enquiring, skeptical or some other excuse for not thinking too much about the subject. We were encouraged to indulge in group think (to, ironically, combat the 'other' group think, embracing what I now understand to be our most primitive of all behaviours, rank tribalism). At one stage the then state president of the professional association instructed me in the art of seeking an exemption (for my children to avoid vaccination) based on 'personal religious' grounds. And he was considered a moderate. Chiropractic is like that. It's history is starkly anti medical (it's Major Premise overtly supernatural) and necessarily inviting of denialism and conspiracy as a default. Author, Kurt Anderson, put it more succinctly - such ideologies "self select for credulity". How?

Orwell described it well - all totalitarian ideologies (beliefs that claim to have already answered every question (with the same response), are essentially 'theocracies' or theocratic models, that is they have 3 requirements - 1. a central doctrine that is irrevocable (always true (and where investigation is feared (unless you simply seek to 'prove' what you already think you know (see confirmation bias))), 2. a hierarchy that is infallible (and therefore unquestionable) and 3. the right to revise history (to obliterate one's mistakes). It's a template for any 'absolutist' tentacle position such as being staunchly anti vaccination. I've often been asked as to why chiropractic feels the need to harbour anti vaccination. It boils down to more primitive behaviour, the sort of impulse that drives us to fear and/or hate others for simply disagreeing with us, a decidedly paranoid angle.

It's interesting to note that such 'total' positions (a giveaway) are attractive because they invite a lack of thought, which can temporarily calm our dissonance, but harbour some type of 'purity' doctrine, a central belief that you can always be on the 'right side' regardless of what you do or say. If you follow the doctrine you will be a 'pure' this or that. In the case of chiropractic, embracing your 'Innate' (your supernatural intelligence, your vital spirit) qualifies you as a 'principled' chiropractor, a TOR, who instantly 'gets it'. Believing that you have a magical mainline to the 'Truth!' via simply believing that you do, is possibly the most egotistical, narrow minded and dangerous precedent to set oneself, especially if you are a professional. Ironically it's also the most effective way to become a 'sheep', a person who regards changing their mind as redundant (a true believer need only reinforce the doctrine). It is how herds are maintained.

Looking back on my days, my own opinion is that chiropractic should never have been given professional status without the clear understanding that the supernatural (vitalism) be taught as history but play no part in theory, explanation or diagnostic process for what should be obvious reasons (it is not theory, explains nothing (except the workings of the human imagination) and plays no part in any sort of investigative process (investigation or diagnosis implies the possibility of a negative finding, whereas the traditional chiropractic belief is that everyone, everywhere has a supernatural life force which is always affected (by subluxations) and in need of care (adjusting subluxations). The dogma has been branded 'Chiropractic Philosophy', a mix of vitalism (the claim that spirits are real), holism (often stated as 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'), conservatism (don't change anything), naturalism (that everything is part of natural events) and rationalism (that knowledge is best gained through reason). As a philosophy it's remarkably disjointed or, as you formally say it in philosophy - unsound. Chiropractic Philosophy is a 'cake and eat it too' dogma. For example, is it reasonable to just assume, despite the complete lack of evidence, that a supernatural realm exists? And is it wise to leave (conserve) this 'traditional value' unmolested and continue to pretend that it is compatible with naturalism (or reason) or that that which is indistinguishable from not existing (vital things) be lumped into a 'holistic' view of health care? 

This is relevant because an anti vaccination stance requires that emotion take precedent over thought, given that mentation brings the risk of reason and changing one's position based upon evidence, not emotion. Make sense? How we think is more important than what, since what we believe is always, in principle, subject to change as we learn more. We all have direct experience with this fact. If we're honest we can make a long list of beliefs we no longer hold because we admit we were mistaken. If I am pro vaccination it is possible, in principle, that a rational position is to accept a change of opinion based upon robust evidence (and become anti vaccination). The point is not what belief is held but the methods one adopts in general to form those beliefs. The word 'evidence' itself does not mean the simple amassing of data which appears to confirm something you'd rather was true. It means drawing conclusions depending upon what the data suggests. The former needs only a burst of comforting brain activity (confirmation) while the later requires consideration and honesty and is often an uncomfortable process. Hence the popularity of resorting to pure tribalism.

I'll tell you about how this was used by Mark Postles, a chiropractor I once had the (initial) pleasure of spending time with and still one of Australia's chief influential 'principled' who chooses the subversive approach of the conspiratorialist, not the transparent one expected of a professional. For those unfamiliar, the movements founder, DD Palmer, was a spiritualist who believed he'd received messages from 'the beyond', actual teachings about chiropractic, from a deceased medical doctor, a ghost (link provided). Palmer, like millions of others before and since, claimed that he'd found the panacea, in this case the cause (subluxation) and cure (faithful chiropractors to expel them) of all ailments. The pure form of chiropractic always mentioned ailments, conditions and disease but the lexicon has been altered to make it appear less mainstream or medical, and to make it appear that chiropractors operate within a different reality, truly clever marketing. The nuances of anatomy and pathology are unnecessary when you already believe you know what the problem and solution are, each time and every time. This is why TORs, like creation 'scientists', who believe themselves to be experts in anything other than the application of rhetoric and technique, are notoriously, one must consider wilfully, ignorant of what a scientific method is. If one is engaged in the process of confirmation, it is not and never will be a scientific method. Moreover, and at risk of overstating the irony of it all, it is through the cognitive sciences (which Mark believes he understands) that we now have explanations for why humans think the way we do; the neurological efficiency, and therefore fast reaction times, of many reflexes, including stupidity.

There's a thread of honesty in traditional chiropractic if not all traditional chiropractors. It states that subluxations cause all problems because it prevents communion between the individual's innate intelligence (your soul) and the universal intelligence (God concept). These days, unfortunately, chiropractors of all bents avoid the elephant in the room. If you want to pretend to be working with magic (and therefore needless of contemporary knowledge and understanding) you should be free to do so. However if you desire to be a registered health professional, who is ethically bound to think and act based on, not in spite of, evidence, you shouldn't. Conning the public into believing that any of this is scientifically justified is unethical. Until around the age of 40, I harboured my own supernatural beliefs and felt that I kept those personal beliefs separate from practice. So while I accepted the possibility of the chiropractic Major Premise, I did not consider it kosher to underpin my education and livelihood with an idea which honesty told me I had no way of demonstrating. While I wanted it to be true there was nothing but belief to show for it. At the same time I was becoming more scientifically literate, considering further study into pain science, which eventually led into cognition. The experience of pain is a 'centrally mediated' phenomenon which takes part in the same regions of the brain that manufacture the feeling of certainty of belief in things that may or may not exist - illusions). In science we refer to 'theory', not just any idea but a carefully thought out explanation for observations which is testable or falsifiable (examinable). Any scientific theory can be shown to be inaccurate or false in principle but that which cannot be found, and therefore not examined, can form no part of science. If we did allow such a rule then absolutely any claim could be considered scientific, reducing the whole enterprise to farce. I experienced a considerable cognitive dissonance at the time. I knew that the evidence for the supernatural (spirits, afterlives, reincarnation, universal forces, etc) amounted to opinion and that this was explained remarkably well through cognitive science (pareidolia, pattern recognition, hallucination, brain reward systems, survival mechanisms, etc). I was also increasingly aware that ethics expected a professional to be 1. up with contemporary knowledge and 2. not to use their position to manipulate or coerce a patient. Professional ethics essentially places the practitioner on the lower rung and expects us to be transparent, the very thing that 'principled' chiropractors (and anti vaxxers) claim is the problem with 'Big' pharma/government/medicine/etc. Traditional chiropractic was now hypocrisy with its philosophy designed to keep practitioners and students comfortably ignorant of that fact and educational levels suitably low.

A good education can be a pandora's box. In my case the break came during an annual buddhist retreat where I became increasingly aware of the superficiality and pretence of the claims I'd once simply, and dumbly, trusted to be true. I can tell you from experience that once offered, trying to shrug off the promise of eternal peace is painful. Rest assured that anyone can have the experience of peace and non judgement. Unfortunately, when those very real experiences are wrapped in unverifiable claims the later eventually poisons the former and one simply ceases to question anything at all. Years later the movements leader was charged with assault with the predictable protection from his senior students.  

As Mark Postles demonstrated for me in his coaching classes, being upfront about one's intentions is the last thing you want to do. Mark understood that sound marketing targeted the emotions given this is where most of our decision making takes place, through impulse. I still believe that his approach is ever so slightly 'ethical' because he would leave the decision, as to whether or not to commence care, with the individual. Conversely, his 'education' classes were coercive by design. Each morning the practice staff would chant the clinic mission statement - to rid the world of subluxations. It was like watching multi level marketing or a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street. Mark would gently turn up the uncertainty dial, the fear factor, an anti medical theme, stating that reliance upon medical care was like waiting for tragedy (putting the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff), with the assumption that lifetime chiropractic care kept calamity at bay, by rebuilding the barriers (every 2 weeks?) at the top and stopping people from wandering off the edge, the pure form of prevention. If you stop to consider the analogy Mark was intimating that unless you agree with lifetime care you are stupid and will fall off the cliff (after which it's not his problem). Moreover, most people are so 'impure' that every 2 weeks (his lifetime 'wellness' schedule of care) the barriers will decay, regardless of what else you might do (care was scheduled at 2 weeks for everyone, whether you were an infant, diabetic or a 25 year old surf legend). The business was not health care. It was conversion. 

At one workshop a chiropractor asked for recommendations regarding the INSIGHT subluxation station, a device reminiscent of Uncle Rico's Time Machine in the movie Napoleon Dynamite, and just as capable of 'detecting subluxations'. I could go into the detail of how mortifyingly crappy this contraption was and is but I can allow Mark to speak for it. I already knew that the 'station' was criticised for being unreliable and that when it's designer was asked for evidence of efficacy, he'd cited himself, twice, as in 'this is my machine and it's awesome'. Another claim was that it was built to test muscle responses in astronauts, whereas its association with NASA extended to a donation of a few hundred dollars and a 'thanks for supporting NASA' sticker. For example, it does use technology also used by NASA but that's like saying my lawn mower is akin to an F1 vehicle since they both use internal combustion technology. The INSIGHT station delivers 'clinically meaningless' data and to quote Mark "It doesn't matter what you use, you just have to be able to explain why the results came out that way", a response that even confused some of the faithful.

The 'explanation', if you're wondering, is that you're subluxated. You were at birth and you will be when you die. One component of the device is sEMG, which measures the electrical activity in muscles and is somewhat useful in research settings and, unless controlled in clinical (office) settings, almost useless. It's use (based upon thousands of hours of research time which validated its application), is in the detection of such conditions as frank nerve compression. It's also used to measure muscle force production but is less accurate in that role than other technologies such as ultrasound. Validation in science means that a question such as 'does sEMG reliably detect frank nerve compression' (under particular conditions) was honestly and openly investigated and supported. Importantly it's then ethical for a practitioner to advise an individual suspected of the condition to undergo testing in order to effectively diagnose the problem (make sure that's what is going on) and subsequently have it treated. No such question, 'does sEMG reliably detect 'vertebral subluxation', was ever investigated, only assumed then sold and, if you think about it, it's not required because INSIGHT is not used to see if a person is subluxated, only to confirm, yet again, that they are. The reasoning, when applied elsewhere, is like a surgeon deciding to remove the spleen of the next patient to walk in the door no matter what the problem seems to be. INSIGHT might resemble contemporary health care but it's akin to divining rods. And before we dismiss this with a giggle, it is used on members of the paying public with the guarantee that it is reliably detecting some form of dis-ease. Principled chiropractors avoid this issue by pretending that it is the sole responsibility of the medical profession to diagnose. However diagnosis is defined as identifying any condition through it's symptoms which includes errant muscle activity which the INSIGHT is claimed to do.

An oft repeated claim is that subluxations do interfere with the messages running around the nervous system so, therefore, it must be exactly the same (kind of thing) as frank nerve compression. Surely. Even better, if we can catch it in the early stages wont it prevent a worsening condition?! I went into this a few years back with some colleagues and I can only blame myself for not explaining it well enough. The difference is that a well researched and considered conclusion is not the same as a stream of wish thinking or a stack of ad hoc hypotheses. An ad hoc hypothesis (AHH) is an explanation added to a theory to compensate for anomalies (new observations which don't quite fit the original theory). It's not unusual for Theory to be occasionally tweaked, however if all we have is a stream of AHH we can reliably guess an idea that wants to avoid being wrong. For example, if I want to continue to believe that subluxations always deprive the nervous system of its 'integrity' I can do what I just did and use sufficiently ambiguous and imprecise terms to avoid being wrong. Avoiding definition is a far worse scourge than one might initially think. 'Subluxation' has dozens of definitions as does 'integrity'. Imagine hiring a builder who eschewed tape measures and only referred to each job as 'less than integrated' and his work as 'approaching integrity'. Shouldn't he measure something? It was truly staggering to witness the number of evidence based chiropractors who did not see that imprecision was so damaging (and clearly institutional). If you cannot accurately define then measure something, have you anything to measure at all? My early attempts at explanation were too complicated and fell on deaf ears. A better approach was the reductio ad absurdum, a philosophical thinking tool that sounds like a magic spell and is easy to apply. Subluxations are claimed to affect everyone, from birth. They are also claimed to suppress immunity (there's that anti vaccination connection again). If we accept both premises we come to two opposing (absurd) conclusions. 1. Over 7 billion people have a dysfunctional immune system (many chiropractors actually claim that subluxations disable immunity) and 2. There is a massive spike in death rates caused by immune suppression (since less than 0.01% of the world's population visit chiropractors).

As with the specious claim that a house well built need only have 'integrity' or that one can healthily 'boost immunity' (people often point out that this is the very definition of autoimmune disease), one does not just suppress the immunity of billions without dire consequences. Not only is it false to claim that billions are born without a functioning immune system, it is deeply unethical (and narcissistic and stupid) for any professional to do so or to be silent when others do.

One day, I observed a busy clinic shift which seemed to be overrepresented by the middle aged and overweight and subsequently asked Mark if he recommended lifestyle changes together with chiropractic care. In fact I'd asked if he thought that with better lifestyle, an individual could avoid lifetime chiropractic care altogether. All he said to that was "We don't do that" and walked away. It was an uncomfortable moment since one professional hallmark is redundancy i.e. you are supposed to look for ways to make yourself unnecessary. Mark even said this at one stage, although he was referring to the idea that once everyone on the planet (or maybe 80%?) was sufficiently subluxation free, a 'shift' of some description would finally restore us to our glory. This is true by the way. I can only allow that Mark's opinion on the chiropractic rapture may have changed over the years, but it's unlikely. And yes, this idea of a 'chiropractic tipping point', an evolutionary and spiritual quickening, a health practitioner fuelled rapture is still popular. Such ideas (bizarre claims about the sudden end of ages and the beginning of the new) wax and wane. Only yesterday a 'Red Pill, Blue Pill' website popped up on a social media feed. If you vaccinate you have taken the Blue (ignorance) pill, obviously. Another short video showed a man drawing childlike pictures depicting a point at which a sudden change in evolution would place entire populations on one of two sides (the simplistic is often depicted as dichotomous (it's either them or us)), the enlightened and the ignorant. This was somehow connected with vaccination as well.

Imagine a hospital in which 20% of the medical staff were vitalists ('spirit knowers') and based their diagnosis on the fact that they already knew what every problem/condition/ailment/vice was before a member of the public entered the facility. Now imagine, hypothetically, that your son is gravely ill and requires surgery. Two surgeons provide advice. One bases his on a text written in 1910 by man who received medical training via clairvoyance and freely admits his conviction that this is the basis of what true medical care is and always will be. The other uses contemporary knowledge. Any traditional chiropractor would be lying if they said it wouldn't affect their decision. That's how faith thinking works, via clairvoyance. And because you understand the single cause and cure you also have a mission (the word is often used) to recruit other believers (practice members). To paraphrase prominent religious apologist William Lane Craig, in matters of the supernatural, belief precedes evidence. Interestingly you'll never see Bill, or Mark Postles, cross a road using faith. Both of them will look, and if they do not see safe passage they will not cross. In vitalism you reverse the process and cross if you feel safe, regardless of whether or not it is, since you can know through belief and may cross with eyes closed.

A few years ago I had a cordial text conversation with Mark, the essence of which was his (reluctant) admission that 1. He believed in a Major Premise and that 2. 'some of the 33 principles were yet to be validated'. Here's a link to the 33, the 'scripture' and entire basis for the subsequent premise that subluxations are the universal scourge. A principled chiropractor need only accept the 1st (The Major Premise - A Universal Intelligence is in all matter and continually gives to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence). In fact, unless we have a 1st premise, we have nothing else, since 32 rest upon the assumption of the 1st. If you read through the list you might notice that 32 are ad hoc hypotheses to distract us from the fact that no one knows if the 1st is real. In that sense it's as philosophically sound as the belief in anything else I want to claim is real but can't manage to find. The philosopher Bertrand Russell pointed this out when asked if he found any of the arguments for God to be compelling. He admitted that he did but, unfortunately, they also worked to 'prove' anything else we couldn't locate, such as his Celestial Teapot.

What is the problem?

It's safe to say that most of the world's population believes in some form of Major Premise, whether that be a God, gods, Great Spirit or what have you, but whereas most professionals manage to draw a line between personal faith and professional life, chiropractic continued to allow the practitioner to take their personal beliefs in precedence over the public. At one stage this criticism was simply met with the claim that the public are 'free to choose'. The public are free to choose, however the professional is not. When state regulations specifically require you to use 'contemporary theory and practice' but you choose instead to place your faith in a book written in 1910, the only thing you've chosen is to be woefully out of date, self absorbed and technically unethical. Contemporary theory in biology, it's entire explanatory framework, is evolution, yet the assumption is that the 33 principles are the framework by which a person can understand life (which is why it is so embarrassing to hear anyone espouse the 33). Replacing contemporary theory with the 33 is something Mr Private Person is allowed to do. It doesn't, or shouldn't, wash with professionals or seats of higher learning.

What's the problem?

To understate - The most you can say about such claims is that they describe our willingness to overstate our own desires. They explain a great deal, ironically, about cognitive blindness. The problem is not that people hold such beliefs (they're part of our neurological projections) but that they feel inclined to conflate pure belief with method or process, with thinking about it. Why study, consider one's own mistakes or heed sound advice and research when you can just lazily collapse into your own prefered version of a 'body of knowledge'? Why bother with ethics when you can connect with 'purity' through thought and avoid the whole action thing? The problem is that once we have accepted a lack of thought as the highest expression of understanding, our standards naturally fall to the superficial.

Mark was reported to, and escaped from, the health regulator, AHPRA, a few years back because, cleverly, he had disseminated material to other chiropractors whereby he openly shared his thoughts about vaccination. AHPRAs guidelines at the time forbade professionals to broadcast such beliefs among patients or the public. Other colleagues pointed out that promoting low ethics and emotive reasoning within your own profession was a far more dangerous activity (certainly stupendously unethical) so Mark was offered the protection of a technicality then went on to power the establishment of an entire college in South Australia which teaches subversion. Now that I've stepped into potentially legal waters I feel quite safe in knowing that no principled chiropractor associated with the college would ever publicly admit that students are taught to be 'principled'. I taught for a while at one institution in Brisbane alongside a Canadian fellow, a nice guy, who freely admitted that he didn't know what he was doing much of the time, and who took great and sudden offence when I pointed out that the term 'miracle' (which he used to insert whenever he didn't understand something) was not explanatory (I resisted the urge to say it was unprofessional, even dangerous in a practical setting) and certainly not something we should allow students to become familiar with. Just imagine engineering students, anyone really, learning that 'miracle', a statement of bewilderment and a lack of understanding, was an equivalent to knowledge (I don't know, but I do know it's a miracle!). I heard the other day that the same gentleman is now teaching at the college. His qualification? He believes. Good for him. I taught clinical neurology alongside another ex colleague, an intelligent man with a good memory. To cut a long story short he was able to recall more anatomical detail than I but was unable to tackle complex clinical questions because he didn't understand basic theory (but thought he did). One question raised was this:

'Why do messages from the eyes first go to the limbic region (upper brainstem) before the cortex (where complex processing (mostly) takes place?'

My colleague had no idea but then said "Isn't the body so intelligent?! I don't know but we do know it's a miracle!" which sounded all too insular and familiar (principled chiropractors gather together to reinvigorate the faith (and end up infecting each other with the same ignorance and catch phrases because, well, none of them know)). The students looked to me. I simply asked them to recall basic theory - what does evolution (the process by which biology is formed) require? Survival (no survival, no procreation). And what aids survival? Speed. Why are messages processed by the brainstem before the cortex. Because it's fast and aids reaction. Around 13 separate regions of the brain process messages dealing with vision and of those, few concern themselves with detail or fine vision. Most, certainly the first, detect movement (which is why we flinch from perceived 'threats' such as rapid movement within our peripheral visual fields). Not only are they fast but they are occult to us i.e. as with the vast majority of our own biological functioning, it takes place automatically and without our awareness. The implication of this is that what we often consider to be our 'awareness' is our perception of very little indeed. Moreover it explains, once again, why a scientific method (testing a claim instead of blindly accepting it), not human's or scientists, has been so phenomenally successful at revealing how the world and ourselves, works.

If cortical processing occurred before reflex responses we'd be dead within minutes. For example, we would be unable to navigate without bumping into objects or falling flat on our faces since the brainstem visual centres are directly linked to reflexes that hold us upright and define our personal space. Citing 'miracles' explains nothing but our lack of understanding.

Similar things happened to me at RMIT back in the 90's. RMIT at the time was considered to be more 'principled', or vitalist friendly, than the institutions in Sydney or Perth. We were never directly taught subversion. That, the invitation to group think, came in via some of the staff and extracurricular events, such as visiting lecturers with bizarre stories about curing cancer to backyard anatomists, mostly nice people with the necessarily low level 'sciencey' training 20% of the profession expected and other's ignorantly allowed (to keep the family peace or 'unity in diversity'!). Of course, at the time I was ignorant of exactly why we were expected to undermine mainstream health care, only that it was our place to do so. Oh, so much to write. Academia at this time invited a postmodern strain of contamination in the 80's and 90's that turned truth into relativity, imprecision into openmidedness and effectively blinded even the 'good' chiropractors to its 'Orwellian' nature. In chiropractic it was alright for belief to precede evidence instead of follow it and to complete each crappy study with 'more research required' instead of 'I think we were wrong' or 'Gee wiz, what were we thinking?!'. This, for example, was written by a 'good' chiropractor, trying to be a sound researcher while responding to the constant 'tribal' narrative of the last 100 years - ignore differences (during the 80's we pretended there were none), circle wagons and hold ranks. From the paper in question:

"Objectives:   To discuss concepts of postmodernism with respect to the opposing worldviews of vitalism and mechanism, and to present an argument for a viable role for vitalism in chiropractic philosophy and research."

This argument, so pervasive in academia a few years back, is essentially the same one used by religious apologists. I'll try to be brief given that I've brought the issue up countless times and don't wish to bore. First of all, and as mentioned above, taking a potentially complex problem and reducing it to a dichotomy (you only have 2 choices), immediately, and needlessly, restricts a discussion. Why only 2 views? Why not 10? Mechanism is a worldview as evidenced by reality itself whereas anything claimed to be supernatural is, as far as anyone is aware, indistinguishable from imagination. I don't wish to be unkind but it is fairly straightforward - supernatural claims are perpetuated by 1. Our ability to be easily fooled into believing most things (it's why magic shows 'work') and 2. The comfort we feel when other people share our beliefs (no matter how crazy or lacking in evidence they are). I have no issue with the imaginary but I do have problems when people, who claim things they cannot find, want to be called professionals. In other words, how we educate determines the standard of the next professional population. Will we seriously value our own feelings about what we'd wish was true above any type of reason? My guess is that Mark, who was or is a huge fan of 'muscle testing', the DIY, all encompassing universal diagnostic tool, would not accept the same level of rigour when having his car serviced. And yet at RMIT, while it was not taught, it was used by members of the staff in private practice but never openly discussed. Does that sound professional?

It may seem counterintuitive, but we've seen the same hypocrisy play out recently in violent anti lockdown protests. One journalist in particular was attacked, spat on and had urine hurled at him to the tunes of "Fake media", powered by the philosophically identical conspiratorial rhetoric espoused by principled chiropractors within our own institutions. It's no surprise then that many of the people we see at these events are 'top heavy' ideologues, powered by the conviction of a 'purity' of some vague description only available to true believers. Mark Postles often referred to "Flowing with/in the innate" when in practice which I found to be rather mastubatory. He may as well have invited us to pray over our patients. 

Back in 2016 I was among a group of colleagues who reported Simon Floreani to the health regulator (AHPRA) following his excruciatingly paranoid interview with American chiropractor, Billy De Moss. To summarise, they had claimed that 'they' (medicine, government, pharmacy etc) were "Nazis", bent on killing children, etc, etc. It was one of the most colourless and embarrassing rants I'd ever witnessed given that these people had the status of registered health providers. Back to the central issue, I suppose. It's one thing for a member of the public, who is not expected to understand either biology or professional ethics, to be, as we say in these COVID days, hesitant. At the time, 5 years ago, I'd offered my opinion to AHPRA, on a few occasions, that because these people were professionals harsh penalties should be considered. One hallmark of a professional is that we stay within our 'lane' or field of expertise, and chiropractors are not, and never have been, viewed by the vast majority of our patients to be infectious disease experts.

What we can do is teach students to think for themselves. Two of my students in particular were, in their 2nd year, well on the way to becoming 'principled' and when the subject came up they were already triggering for a fight, even though I'd yet to state my own position or the history of the movement. They were already needlessly polarised by the 'principled'. That's what the brain is like, especially when invited to leap (emote) before looking (thinking), a maze of emotional tripwires. I appealed to emotions, as does Mark, because he and I both understand that marketing sells to the evolutionarily older part of the brain, not the thinking part. These students, like all others wanted recognition and respect. They wanted to be rewarded for having committed 5 years of their life to the pursuit of professionalism. So I explained what that is. What I did not do was tell them what they should think and instead invited them reflect upon how they would appreciate being treated were they on the receiving end of any professional encounter.

Do we expect any other professional to base their practice and advice upon the necessity to believe that a founder spoke to the undead, or that the best accountants are those who espouse 33 principles of the mystical ledger? Does it sound remotely like a profession to you? Do professionals ask questions freely as a means of gathering reliable information or do they use questions to lead a member of the public towards a forgone conclusion? Do other professionals organise 'education' classes for prospective clients? Should asking questions of a professional be met with vaugery, dismissiveness, defensiveness or hostility? If you are not free to question the advice of a professional are you in the presence of one? Is our reason or our emotion being appealed to? Principled chiropractors try to escape the obvious by targeting those with a similar need for confirmation, an episode of medical mismanagement or plain old paranoia about 'them' coming to get those who really understand the truth. I recommended that students attend any and all seminars but to consider what they thought about 2nd year students in any field, say nursing or engineering, being invited to events alongside multi year practitioners. Why? What was the point?

Unfortunately, Mark uses that knowledge (gained through a scientific method, not a belief in vitalism), to aid his goal and spread the word of 'principled' chiropractic. Marks practice objective, which may have changed (I don't believe it has), is to decide now, regardless of what condition a patient has (which is ultimately irrelevant to the 'principled') that they 'educate' them to stay for the rest of their lives under 'wellness' care, along with as many family and friends as they can lure in. Remember, it's perfectly ethical and normal for family members to visit the same professional, but for a professional to target, ahead of time, an entire family with the intention of 'educating' them that they are riddled with subluxations (that require fortnightly 'removal') that you can only find using your instinct for 'Innate' (vitalism) is not. He also taught (teaches) this to other chiropractors via his coaching program, Quest. It was confronting, as happened on more than a few occasions, for a patient to begin asking me questions when Mark left a room to attend to others. They'd often ask me if the recommendations were sound i.e. why did they have to keep coming in (when the symptoms they had arrived with were gone). What annoyed me was not that there may have been a rationale but that the public seemed uninformed and confused. Others seemed quite happy to be there but couldn't elaborate as to why. I've never experienced that before or since because in my experience patients who attend ethical practices are provided with cogent explanations as to why a certain type of care is recommended. Marks recommendations were, again, dependent upon the need to 'educate'. Other chiropractors in his coaching program would ask about frequency of care and again, the response was equivocal - "Whatever it takes to change their mind" - whatever it takes for them to become dependent upon you and your personal ideology, whatever Mark is happy with.

The Sovereign Citizen

One workshop Mark invited me to was surprising. It was not related directly to chiropractic. Mark shared his ideas about the Sovereign Citizen, a term new to me which describes a loose collection of groups who basically believe that federal law (the law of one's nation), is illegitimate. Plenty of 'Citizens' (irony?) have emerged during covid to chant about their own rights which boil down to wanting to be able to do anything they want. Ayn Rand's work made another round within the 'principled' ranks before covid and even made its way into the University curriculum due to the stupidity of my Canadian colleague who thought the students needed some 'philosophy'. Meanwhile I was trying to teach professional ethics. Sometimes words do escape me. Rand was a sociopath who admired, and was philosophically influenced by, a serial killer named William Hickman:

"Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"

Neither could she, apparently. Mark never mentioned Ayn Rand. His focus, like many other Citizens, was money. There was reason in his argument - International law technically forbids the people of one nation to be ruled over by the constitution of another. And since the Australian Constitution is actually an Act of the British parliament, Mark saw taxation as theft. He had a good point about company law and the fact that corporations have sought, and largely succeeded in shaping federal and state laws in their favour.  

The problems were many, when you thought it through. Mark didn't actually say that corporations and banks couldn't do what they did. He argued that he had the right to do exactly the same thing (which I found a little eerie). This too tends to be a hallmark of the 'principled' - if something appeals you needn't think too hard about it which routinely leads to the tu quoque, the 'you too' argument - a thing is only wrong if I'm the only one caught doing it. As an example he cited a Sydney lawyer who had refused to pay thousands of dollars in parking fines (on the premise that it was a law of a foreign power) and another who had, so I heard, avoided paying taxes for 20 years. This was the crux of the workshop, to instruct us in how to stop paying tax. He'd thought it through - Tax evasion or fraud can land you in jail but you have the right to issue an excuse as to why you are not paying, to which the government must answer. We were assured that the 'foreign power' argument was sound but it all had the ring of Ayn Rand to it, a very creepy form of narcissism, and I didn't hang around to find out. Incidentally, the FBI and the NSW Police force have both classified various Citizen groups as domestic terrorists. They tend to feature prominently in the violent faction of anti lockdown protests. I'm not suggesting that Mark was a member of a terrorist group but he certainly shared their ideology - what is true and good is what Mark says it is.

It was covid that prompted this piece. Regardless of what position you take on vaccination the matter at hand is professionalism. Do we stand back and allow our own profession to be used as a platform for the primitive, for the unethical, for the almost complete lack of critical thought and the necessarily primitive standards of education required to maintain it? Is the problem due to the 'principled' chiropractor or is it the majority who were simply processed through the same system which taught them (as well), via a hidden curriculum, that this disgraceful status quo was inevitable?


No comments:

Post a Comment