The Drive To Discredit – Who Gains?

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on May 18, 2009

I’ve witnessed numerous campaigns that have discredit rather than social good as their objective.   They use wild accusations, name calling, fake or biased data and specious linkage to influence how people think about a person, an idea or a group they find threatening.

It’s a dirty business.  This post is my way of outing it and helping you to respond to it.  I’m not out to discredit those who do it, but instead, I’d like to shed some light on the activity of it, and maybe impair the success of these campaigns at least a little, because they only work when people are blind to them. 

As I’ve said before, the best way to protect yourself from persuasive attempts is to think for yourself.  Here are questions I think worth asking when dealing with someone’s drive to discredit.   

Who is behind the campaign?  Who stands to gain by their success?

It may not always be obvious, but it’s still worth trying to see who is there.  A cloak of invisibility around the people driving a campaign makes it easier for a dirty campaign to succeed, just as naming those behind a dirty campaign may be enough to inhibit its influence. 

In the case of CAM,  it’s the established order fighting off a serious contender to its dominance.  And the established order consists of medical societies who rule it,  trade organizations and lobbyists who gain power from it, drug companies who profit from it, diploma mills who thrive where regulation of the alternatives is lax.

In the case of Spector, well, they’ve outed themselves, and their agenda is well known.  They have no credibility outside their ever shrinking circle.  Their only hope is that conditions worsen for the nation (and many of them are, I suspect, hoping for that very thing)

How many people are involved in the effort?   

We know from watching the buildup to the war in Iraq that when you have enough people spouting the same story in enough locations and venues, and no means to counter the campaign, it is remarkably effective at swaying opinion and gaining agreement.  Pro-peace and anti-war sentiment was essentially squelched, with the resulting consequence that we are still trying to figure out how to pay for the economic, political and military weakness that has resulted from it. 

In the case of CAM, there are those who like to play doctor but weren’t willing to work for the title.  They are in unlicensed states, using the same credential, N.D., after paying for a diploma from a correspondence course.  Thousands of these unlicensable ‘doctors’ then contribute to bogus organizations whose sole purpose, besides issuing a certificate of membership that says the ‘doctor’ is ‘certified’ to anyone who qualifies (i.e., sends them money) is to stop the licensing of CAM in order to protect their ability to do what they please.  They are encouraged and supported by people inside the conventional medical community who can’t stand the competition or loss of prestige that has accompanied the many failures of the healthcare system.  This is a well funded group.  

In the case of Spector, their number is known, you can count them any time there is a vote in Congress.  Add a handful of loudmouthed commentators and a few hundred paranoid ‘conservative’ bloggers and you’ve got the totality of it.  Not enough to discredit a long record of moderation and contribution. 

Why are they doing it?   What do they stand to gain?


A good way to get at this is to go to that moment in the timeline where the campaign to discredit might actually succeed, and witness the real-world effects. 

In the case of CAM, the medical establishment’s powers seek to remain large and in charge.  Should it succeed at squelching the interest in CAM, profits, power, and prestige are the benefits.  And the uN.Ds (unlicensable because they didn’t bother to go to medical school) get to continue using a title without having had to earn it. 

In political terms, being in the minority makes it difficult to succeed at this kind of campaign, unless there is strong unity in opinion and message, and no countervailing force.  For the Republicans, this is NOT the case, and their efforts seem to be backfiring now at every turn.  The drive to discredit the defection of Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania is a good case in point.  The more they come after him, the weaker they look, because there are countervailing voices in their own party telling them this is a symptom of a deep problem, not a ‘blessing in disguise’ as those on the far right would have it. 

They are attacking him in order to draw attention away from their own failures, as a way of scapegoating someone else, and to minimize the evidence that they have become a party of extremes.  Moderates are leaving in droves.  Some of them just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  And some are, ahem, still waiting and hoping for a Republican establishment change of heart. 


More in my next post.  Your comments are always welcome!

Be well,


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