The folly of alt-reality

Ho hum, yet another video claiming to reveal The Truth™ is doing the rounds. This one an interview by London Real — a cultish conspirituality self-help movement, formerly purveyor of pyramid schemes — with Dr Andrew Kaufman, “unmasking the lies around Covid-19”.

It turns out this Dr Andrew Kaufman is a big hitter in the alternative media alternative reality, giving interviews with Truthers all over the place. His present claim to fame is that as a medical doctor, he rejects the germ theory of disease, postulating that contagious diseases are not contagious. This claim alone makes him a celebrity in the alt-reality realm, where his bravery and honesty is lauded by men, women and bots seeking evidence to confirm their conclusions.

Outside of this alt-reality, Dr Andrew Kaufman was a psychiatrist specialising in forensic psychology, treating ADHD, personality disorders, murder and suicide ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, co-author of a study of suicidal ideation in prisons and a survey of mental health expert competency. He nearly failed to complete his Psychiatry Residency Education Programme at Duke University in 2009 due to suspension for fraud, but the suspension was eventually stayed by the North Carolina Medical Board. He appears to have been subject to a further disciplinary period between 2012 and 2015 in the state of Ohio. He does not seem to have practised medicine since 2016 and his medical licence expires this year.

Although his undergraduate degree was in microbiology, virology does not appear to have been his specialism during his professional career. He has had a YouTube channel since 2017, publishing videos on alternative medicine for the past five months.

Does Andrew Kaufman believe the ideas he presents to his audiences? That is the great unknown, but I think it highly unlikely. All I will say is that the realm of alternative medicine and the conspiracy truther is a lucrative marketplace for the savvy entrepreneur who knows how to monetise the yearning for alternative facts.

I did wonder, momentarily — perhaps this is the conspiracy theorist in me — whether Andrew Kaufman is socially engineering his audience, conducting research into the psychology of truthers and conspiritualists. Possible, but much more likely: he is just a businessman, monetising a willing audience for personal gain.

The alternative, that he really believes what he tells his audience, seems hardly probable, unless he has grown so disillusioned with his profession through a series of bad experiences, that he himself sees mendacity everywhere. He wouldn’t be the first forensic psychiatrist driven to madness by his subject. So yes, his intentions are the great unknown.

As for his audience? What excuse do they have — often highly educated and presumed learned — for forwarding videos and articles like these over and over via WhatsApp? Why do they not pause for thought, to ask who those speaking to them are, and what their agenda is? What is their excuse for pushing this alt-reality, other than to bolster their own alt-realities, cementing their status as an authority within their own particular niche? The pursuit of truth, as far as I am aware, does not work that way. In more sober times, we would call this bearing false witness.

The real conundrum here is not why Andrew Kaufman is doing it. It is how have people of truth and faith especially become such unreliable witnesses in a time of crisis.

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