Written by : Fugel Khan
Student of Masters in Social Science, University Paris 8, Saint Denis
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com
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A French perspective : Part 3
Recently, a very serious study conducted by the INA (National Audiovisual Institute) shows how the media treated Professor Raoult over the period of end March.
“… between Monday 23 and Sunday 29 March … a total of 401 hours were devoted to coronavirus and its consequences …, i.e. an on-air share of 79.6%.
“During the week of 23 to 29 March, BFMTV has pronounce the words “chloroquine” up to 35 times per hour, and “Didier Raoult” up to 15 times per hour.
Finally in his career, D. Raoult has not only made friends. He is accused of having a haughty character and sometimes of rebellious statements:
“I’m not an outsider, I’m the one who’s the most ahead of the game.”
“I don’t care what people think.”
“Lockdown? “We don’t even know if it works.”
In his press releases, he has described lockdown alone, without further measures, as a middle-aged method that only delays the end. Indeed, following the example of the South Korean method, he is for mass screening, wearing masks for all, rapid management of the infected in addition to confinement. In addition, another quarrel between scientists, involving conflicts of interest, was mentioned and documented in an article in the newspaper Marianne. It concerns his conflict with the former president of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Yves Levy, who is also the partner of Agnès Buzyn, former health minister. “It emerges from Marianne’s investigation that the relationship between the scientist and the Parisian medical community is indeed bordering on detestation. The article goes back over the various quarrels that exist in the scientific community between the IHUs but also between the IHU Marseille and INSERM and CNRS.
Raoult’s defendants believe that he could be frowned upon because of his refractory positions. In his book “Stop Being Afraid”: he opposes to the concern about food which he considers exaggerated, focusing on the fact that cancer and other diseases are decreasing but that concern about health is increasing, denounces the over-consumption of drugs to relieve pain or anxiolytics, he questions the apocalyptic prediction of climate change without being a climate-septic. In “Everything you need to know about vaccines”: he asks the question about the necessity or usefulness of certain vaccines that were once essential but nowadays some of these diseases, recognized as eradicated by the WHO such as measles or Poliomyelitis, of which no case has been recorded for more than 40 years, but without opposing the 11 vaccines made compulsory by Agnès Buzyn and obviously calling for the monitoring of vaccinations. All these questions are open to debate and have given it a rather depreciative image in part of the scientific and political sphere.
Nevertheless there are many doctors, scientists and political figures who support Raoult. There is a conflict between scientists and city doctors who find themselves excluded from studies. Indeed, a prescription forbids city doctors to prescribe the treatment recommended by Professor Raoult, leaving the monopoly of research to scientific institutes and doctors, but their studies are criticized for being slow. The Discovery study, for example, is unable to get volunteers because of a draw that will leave one group in placebo, without treatment. In order to be able to speed up the studies, the doctors claim the right to be able to conduct their study in parallel also by taking care of the patients.
Most of the support comes from the right, which is classified as populist or sovereignist. Many Republican MPs have publicly supported it. Valérie Boyer, MP for Bouches-du-Rhône and councillor for the city of Marseille, being contaminated by coronavirus, followed the treatment proposed at the IHU of Marseille and declared to be cured fairly quickly. Philippe Douste-Blazy, a doctor and former Minister of Health under Jacques Chirac, never stopped putting pressure on the government, with a collective, he launched a petition for the generalization of Raoult’s treatment which has already been signed by 500,000 people in one week. Marine Le Pen, the president of RN, Gilbert Collard, deputy RN, Nicolas Dupont Aignon of Wake up France, François Asselineau of the UPR, Jean Luc Mélenchon of Rebellious France, Florian Phillipot of the Patriots, are in favour of the use of the treatment and criticize the government’s management.
The left is being rather discreet so as not to raise the issue of destocking of masks since 2013. City doctors and some hospitals have already called for Raoult’s recommendations to be followed, notably Patrick Pelloux, a doctor and president of the Association of Emergency Physicians of France (AMUF) .
So much pressure from the population, some doctors and the opposition has pushed President Macron to cancel his speech of April 9, and against all expectations he has scheduled a visit to the IHU Center in Marseille to talk with Professor Raoult. At the same time, Raoult gave a new study estimating the efficiency of chloroquine at 91%, on a study sample of 1061 people, 973 recoveries in less than 10 days and 5 deaths (74-95 years old) representing 0.47% of deaths.
Thus we have seen how a scientific and health debate has been transformed, while being affected by internal quarrels between doctors and scientists. Such complexity pushes us to take a position in the debate and give our own opinion without having an answer and a concrete result.
Changeover of political, geopolitical and strategic stakes
A spectacular return of the states against the European Union as well as return of the Nation against globalization?
This crisis highlights the limits of the new world of the globalized liberal economy, the basis of which the president was elected. But the president is also the end of this new world in spite of himself. Indeed, elected on the ideology of the liberal economic market, individualism and Europe, with this crisis, we have seen the return of completely antinomic values such as the social and the nation. Bruno LeMaire, Minister of Economy, to address the issue of the nationalization of companies without being criticized by the Liberals, a path until now rather reserved for sovereignists and various right-wingers. With the stock market crash some see a good opportunity for a renationalisation of companies. Let’s remember that after the 2008 crisis, the United Kingdom and the United States had massively nationalized the banks, the United States had also bought General Motors.
We can also see the principles of European solidarity shaken when we see how the Italians were abandoned by the European Union. At a time when the country was badly affected and was asking for help, the European Union was looking completely elsewhere. At a time when the continent is in the midst of an epidemic, the European Union preferred to open the debate on accession negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia. Meanwhile, the states are waging a war of masks against each other, seizing the masks they find in the territory. We have also seen masks destined for France being bought by the United States at the last moment.
In such a situation, Italy had to rely on the help of Cuba, China and Russia. Seeing this external aid everyone is rowing behind, the Germans then offer to take care of the sick, the European Union has recently tried to lift the embargo on medical devices in order to send them to the Italians, but the damage has been done, nobody believes anymore in the principles of the European Union which puts the interest of the Union before the national interest.
However, this has not put an end to the ideological and political conflicts between states. Indeed, while the European Central Bank and the IMF offered colossal and almost unlimited financial aid. The technocratic elites at the summits of the world’s highest institutions have not ignored the differences they have with other states in order to bring them down once and for all. Thus, the IMF refused to help Venezuela to get out of the epidemic crisis on the pretext that the Venezuelan government was not “officially recognized by the international community”. Iran, which is very much affected by the epidemic, appealed to the United States to lighten its embargo on imports of medical materials, but instead of lifting it, Washington tightened it further.
The sports world has also been shaken. The Olympic games scheduled for this summer in Japan will be held in 2021, the first time in the history of the Olympics that it is being held in an odd year. The same applies to other sports competitions whose organisation remains under threat, such as the European Football Cup, all the football cups and championships, Roland Garos, Tour de France etc.
By sending of medical, human and material aid from China to the whole world, this state is in the process of confirming its emergence on an international scale, in contrast to the United States which sees its influence in world hegemony deteriorating and part of the population perishing from the virus. It must be said that the Americans have not been helped by the poor food hygiene and the very high obesity rate in the country. A country where the unemployment system does not exist, or can go up to a few weeks depending on the state, which has no health system, is very poorly equipped. Indeed, D. Trump did not hesitate to use forceful means by threatening India with retaliation if the country did not sell chloroquine, a threat against which India was forced to lift the ban on chloroquine exports. Alas, at a time when we in France are unable to reach unanimity on chloroquine, the other countries are already waging war on it. Let us hope that we will not have to deplore the lack of anticipation regarding the storage and manufacture of this treatment.
As uncertainty continues to prevail, the entire French population is now waiting for President Macron’s national address scheduled on 13th April.
(End of the article )
(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Multidimension’s editorial stance.)